In The News
Scary scans make smokers stop smoking: new Brock research
May 29, 2014
Smokers, take note. There’s an image that could alarm even the hardest core into giving up the vice for good.
It’s a computer tomography (CT) scan of the smoker’s lungs. The more serious the CT results, the more likely a smoker will be to quit smoking, according to new research by Brock University epidemiologist Martin Tammemagi, published May 28 in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
“Abnormal screening results may present a ‘teachable moment’,” says Tammemagi. “Future lung cancer screening programs should take advantage of this opportunity to apply effective smoking cessation programs.”
Tammemagi and colleagues used data from the U.S. National Lung Screening Trial on 14,621 current smokers, 55 to 70 years old, with a 30 or more pack-a-year smoking history and who had smoked during the last 15 years. The researchers excluded participants who developed lung cancer during follow-up.
For smoking information, the authors used the results of annual study updates starting at one, two, and up to seven years later. Researchers found that the more serious the screening result, the greater the likelihood that smoking stopped. In addition, the effect appeared to be durable, lasting up to five years after the last screening.
“There’s a long, long list of diseases caused by smoking – cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases being two examples – that are not related to lung cancer or even cancer,” says Tammemagi. “Quitting smoking will reduce risk of these diseases and for some of them improvements can be seen within a week of stopping smoking.”
In related research published May 27 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Tammemagi reports that if people who are at high risk of lung cancer receive low dose computer tomography (CT) screening, mortality from lung cancer death can be reduced by 20 percent.
“This is one of the biggest breakthroughs that we’ve had for decades in terms of reducing lung cancer mortality,” says Tammemagi. “Although lung cancer screening is not free from side effects and complications, it appears that we should attempt to introduce and evaluate CT lung cancer screening in a gradually phased-in, well thought out manner ” Tammemagi goes on to say.
In early 2013, he launched a calculator that predicts the likelihood of someone developing lung cancer, and thus determining if they might benefit from lung cancer screening.
Also, Tammemagi created risk calculation software that can reduce surgical procedures by helping doctors know if nodules showing up on CT lung scans have a high probability of being cancerous.
The whole package
Teresa Pitman | September 26, 2014If you’ve ever bought ready-to-eat sushi, you may have noticed a blob of wasabi on the tray. It’s a convenient way to add pungent flavour to your lunch, but it also serves another purpose: it protects your food from micro-organisms. As food science professor Loong-Tak Lim explains, wasabi contains allylisothiocyanate, (AITC) a natural and potent anti-microbial that kills yeast and bacteria. Of course, not every food is enhanced by the strong flavour of wasabi, so Lim has developed a packaging system that offers the same antimicrobial benefits . Lim derives his AITC from ground mustard powder, and uses a patented nanotechnological process to spin tiny fibres that encapsulate the naturally sourced agent in the packaging. “The conventional approach to adding preservatives has been to add them to the food,” says Lim's research colleague Suramya Mihindukulasuriya. “But processing the food may break down the preservative. By having the preservative in the packaging, we don’t need as high a concentration to enhance the shelf-life, safety and quality of the food.” So-called “active packaging,” responds to changes in the environment and the food itself, Lim says. In this case, the membrane responds to a certain level of moisture and releases a preservative to prevent spoiling. Other active packaging materials respond to heat and light. Mihindukulasuriya works with a preservative called hexanal, the volatile organic compound you smell when you cut grass or slice a cucumber. Hexanal helps preserve cell membranes of fruits and vegetables so they don’t become soft or soggy as they ripen. The preservative also has some anti-microbial properties, which are activated by heat and humidity. Mihindukulasuriya calls her technique of enclosing the preservative using ultra-high electrical forces “electrospinning.” Lim jokes that “we are like Spiderman, spinning tiny fibres.” And the fibres are tiny – about 400 times smaller than a human hair. When exposed to humidity or water, these fibres become permeable and release the hexanal. During her PhD studies, Mihindukulasuriya also developed an oxygen indicator that is activated by ultraviolet radiation. When there is little or no oxygen in the package, the indicator is white, but if the package is damaged or torn, allowing oxygen to enter, the indicator turns blue. This matters because oxygen causes rapid deterioration of some foods, and higher levels of oxygen encourage the growth of more micro-organisms. These foods are sealed in vacuum packs or in packages flushed with nitrogen to remove the oxygen, but if the package becomes damaged at some point, oxygen can get inside. That’s where Mihindukulasuriya’s product comes in: a label with a blue line would indicate that the package should not be purchased. What’s next in active and intelligent packaging? Mihindukulasuriya is planning to develop a compound that will detect the volatile compounds produced by food when it spoils and indicate to consumers that the food should not be eaten. The technique would supplement expiry dates, which are only estimates based on typical situations. Not only would such packaging warn people that food had spoiled, it could also reassure them when it was safe to eat – even if the expiry date had passed. “People throw away lots of food that has expired but is still perfectly good to eat,” says Lim. This article was originally published by the University of Guelph. It has been edited for brevity, clarity and style, and is republished here with permission.