Thalidomide may be effective against cancer and leprosy


November 18, 2001|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. Is it true that thalidomide is effective against cancer? How does it work, and how safe is it? Doesn't thalidomide cause birth defects?

A. Thalidomide was responsible for one of the most terrible drug disasters of the 20th century. When pregnant women took this medication as a sleeping pill, their babies were born with deformed limbs.

Although it was banned for decades, thalidomide has been resurrected as a new treatment for cancer and leprosy. It is especially effective against a blood cancer called multiple myeloma.

An Oct. 18 letter in the New England Journal of Medicine described dramatic benefit in an advanced case of malignant melanoma, even though the drug has not performed well in melanoma clinical trials. Thalidomide is currently being investigated for use against other cancers, including those of the brain, kidneys and lungs.

Q. My mother was a firm believer in the benefits of apple cider vinegar for arthritis. I never paid any attention to how she mixed it up, but now I wish I had, because my fingers are stiff and my knees are acting up, too. Do you know the formula?

A. Vinegar is a popular remedy for lots of problems, including athlete's foot, toenail fungus, bee stings and jock itch. Dr. D.C. Jarvis, author of Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor's Guide to Good Health, popularized apple cider vinegar for arthritis. He recommended a teaspoon daily in water with honey.

Q. My 11-year-old daughter has warts on her fingers. The dermatologist is so busy he can't see her until February.

When I called for an appointment I was told to use an over-the-counter remedy, wrap the finger with duct tape and leave the duct tape on for 24 hours. Then we are supposed to scrape the affected area with fine sandpaper.

Duct tape sure has a lot of uses. Do you have any suggestions on wart removal? There's got to be a better way than duct tape and sandpaper.

A. We have been collecting wart remedies for 25 years. Here are a few of our favorites: (A) Apply a drop of castor oil to the wart twice a day. (B) Cut a slice of raw potato and rub the cut side on the wart every day for three weeks. (C) Apply the inside of a banana peel to the wart and tape it in place (duct tape might work here, too). (D) Apply a drop of iodine to the wart daily.

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