Thursday, March 03, 2011
Cancer and genes relationship

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

When most people think of cancer, they think of a mass of tissue. However, cancer really begins at the level of a single cell. The underlying cause is usually related to an individual's genes. Cell growth is constant in our body. Skin cells are constantly replaced. The lining of our intestinal tract changes. Various blood cells continue to be produced by the bone marrow on a regular basis. All of these processes are controlled by genes. There are some genes that cause cells to grow and some that keep cells from growing. There are some genes that recognize abnormal cells and remove them. It is only logical that a mistake in any of these areas can produce a growth of cells that is abnormal. Over time, this growth becomes the bulk of tissue that we know as a tumor. For example, an individual may have a problem with the genes that cause cells to grow. The result is that growth can occur in an out of control fashion. On the other hand an individual might have a problem with the genes that keep cells from growing. The result will be the growth of cells without anything to stop that from happening. An individual might have a problem with the genes that recognize and remove cancerous cells. If those cells go undetected, they can continue growing. Since these genes are inherited, cancer tends to run in families. We have actually identified some of the genes that allow cancer to run in families. An example of this are two of the genes associated with breast cancer. They are known as Breast Cancer susceptibility gene 1 (BRCA1) and Breast Cancer susceptibility gene 2 (BRCA 2). These genes both belong to the class of genes that normally stops the growth of tumors. When these genes are not normal women can develop breast or ovarian cancer at a higher rate than normal. The association of genes and cancer is not new. An abnormality called the Philadelphia Chromosome was discovered in 1960. This abnormal chromosome is associated with a high incidence of leukemia. As we continue to map the human genome, we will learn more about the relationship between genes and cancer. It is likely that future treatments will involve some kind of gene therapy. There is actually a medical journal titled "Cancer Gene Therapy." There are currently clinical trials involving gene therapy for cancer. One of the areas being studied is an actual replacement of good genes for bad genes. Another involves placing genes in a patient's blood cells. The cells are then injected back into the patient so that they will kill the tumor cells. A third method is placing genes in the tumor cells to make them more sensitive to treatments like chemotherapy. A fourth method is aimed at preventing tumors from growing new blood vessels which provide nourishment. It has been 50 years since we discovered the Philadelphia chromosome. However, gene therapy for cancer appears to be moving down a much faster track than it was in the past. We will likely see big changes in this area in the not too distant future.

Alzheimer's Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Alzheimer's Support Group meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, at LifeCare at Lofland Park's first floor Resident Lounge, 715 E. King St., Seaford. This group provides support and information about Alzheimer's and dementia to families, caregivers and anyone who is affected by this disease. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact LifeCare at Lofland Park at 628-3000, ext. 8302.

First Aid classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community First Aid classes to anyone interested in learning first aid on Tuesday, March 8 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn basic first aid that will enable them to administer help during the first few moments until emergency responders arrive. Classes are open to participants ages 13 and up. The course covers cognitive learning, role-playing and skill practice. Cost is $30. Payment and registration is required no later than five business days before the class begins. Late registrations (if seating is available) will be an additional $5 fee. To register or for more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required. Second flu death in state Delaware's Division of Public Health reports the second flu death of the 2010-2011 flu season occurred Feb. 24 of a 45-year-old woman from Sussex County. The individual had underlying health conditions and had been hospitalized. Certain groups of people are at higher risk of complications from influenza, including people with chronic underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and those who are immune suppressed. Precautions to help stop the spread of flu include:

  • Getting vaccinated against influenza.
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or your inner elbow - not into your hands.
  • If you are sick, staying home at least 24 hours after your fever goes away. This means no fever for at least 24 hours after you have stopped taking any fever-reducing medication. Employers are encouraged to be flexible with their employees on the issue of staying home when ill.
Stay informed about the latest developments on the flu, by visiting

Lecture about headaches Dr. James Hummel and staff at Nanticoke Chiropractic Center are hosting a health lecture, "Why your Normal Headache is Not Normal," on Tuesday, March 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Learn the types, symptoms, causes and potential treatments for annoying headaches. This event is open to the public at no cost but reservations are requested. Call 628-8706 to reserve your seat.

Stroke Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Tuesday, March 15, at 1:30 p.m., at the Seaford Library.

The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 8626.

Diabetes Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold a free diabetes support group on Monday, March 14, from 5 to 6 p.m, at the hospital. As a person with diabetes, are you struggling to make positive behavior changes in your life or would just like to share with others coping with diabetes? Each scheduled support group will offer an educational offering related to diabetes care, as well as a question and answer period. Registration for this support group is required. On March 14, Barbara Gijanto, BA, RN, WCC, CWOCN, Wound Care specialist, will speak on the topic, "Taking Care of Your Feet". To register and obtain more information regarding the support group, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Nanticoke offers cholesterol class Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next cholesterol class is Tuesday, March 29 at 5 p.m. at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. The class will focus on foods and eating habits that may help to manage your cholesterol levels and will incorporate practical suggestions for overcoming the barriers to eating in a heart healthy way. Topics will include risk factors, saturated, unsaturated fats, trans fats, portion sizes and other American Heart Association guidelines. There is a class fee of $20, and pre-registration is required. For more information and to register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 2455.

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. Of particular value to newly-diagnosed women is DBCC's Peer Mentor Program through which they are paired with a long-term survivor for one-on-one support. To learn more about Beginning Your Pick Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Heart and Stroke Gala The 2011 Southern Delaware Heart and Stroke Gala, "An Evening in Oz," will be held on Saturday, March 19, at the Sheraton Dover Hotel. The annual event benefits the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. Volunteers are actively planning the gala. Volunteers work on committees, including sponsorship, publicity, auction, hospitality, multimedia, website, entertainment, casino, photography and decorating. To find out more about sponsorship or to volunteer, contact Karen Gritton, special events director at or 286-5705. You may also contact the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association's Delaware office toll free at 877-750-4276.

Annual Brain Injury Conference The Brain Injury Association of Delaware (BIAD) will host its milestone 20th Annual Brain Injury Conference "Journey of Purpose" on Wednesday, March 23, and Thursday, March 24. The conference will be held at Clayton Hall Conference Center at the University of Delaware's North Campus. BIAD welcomes Keynote Speaker Dr. Al Condeluci who works with UCP/CLASS as a speaker, author, teacher and nationally renowned consultant on human and community services. Lunch speaker is Rita Landgraf, Secretary of Delaware Health and Social Services. Closing speaker will be Dr. Lani Nelson-Zlupko, the force behind LNZ Consulting, Inc., where she is a life coach and motivational speaker. The two-day BIAD conference will also include a reception, annual meeting and other speakers and exhibitors. Registration is open for sponsors, exhibitors and conference registrants. Visit for more details, or call 1-800-411-0505. A reduced rate is available for students, brain injury survivors and family members. Pre-registration is required. CEU's will be offered.

Wellness Center shows art The Wellness Community will be featuring Renew Your PaletteƉ Art for the Mind, Food for the Soul, scheduled for March 12. To submit art or obtain more information, contact Marcia Esposito, special events coordinator, at 645-9150 or For more info see

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospice's "New Beginnings" bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program. The location rotates each week of the month according to the following schedule:
  • 1st Thursday: Grottos Pizza, Rt. 26, Bethany Beach;
  • 2nd Thursday: Georgia House, 300 Delaware Ave., Laurel;
  • 3rd Thursday: Millsboro Pizza Palace, Rt. 113-southbound lane, Millsboro;
  • 4th Thursday: Blue Ocean Grill (formerly Milton House), 200 Broadkill Rd., Milton;
  • 5th Thursday (when applicable): Texas Grill (formerly Ocean Point Grill), 26089 Long Neck Rd., Millsboro.
"New Beginnings" luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required.There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Carol Dobson or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.