FIGHTING CANCER -- WITH BROCCOLI?

Nothing seems too outrageous these days, even fighting cancer with broccoli.

There is a chemical in broccoli called sulforaphane that stimulates certain "phase II" enzymes. These enzymes have been found to inhibit the growth of cancer in laboratory mice. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Tsukuba University, Japan, reported these findings at the proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences. "We have evidence that we can increase the system's levels of protection in people and are planning long-term studies that would reveal any lowered incidence of cancer."

So, eat your broccoli al dente with a lot of melted butter mixed with sauted almonds. It's too early to tell if it will prevent cancer, but it is a pleasant way to prevent hunger.

THE END OF AN ERA, OR AT LEAST A PATENT

Valium, the first benzodiazepine to make it big with the vast neurotic segment of the public, was introduced in 1963. I recognized within a few years that this was a highly addictive and dangerous drug. In spite of this fact, it quickly became America's darling with over 61 million prescriptions written in 1975 alone! It seemed everybody was taking it. In Great Britain, Valium and its cousins, known collectively as "Benzies," took off like ten-cent pot. It was the mega drug of its time, all over the affluent sections of the world.

In the United Kingdom, Valium is now dead. The Roche Company became fabulously rich based on the performance of this one decorative little pill. But the patents ran out and Valium is history. But that history isn't pretty. As always, the drug was hailed as "harmless" when it was introduced in the U.S. and Britain. But years of use and abuse have proven it to be the potential killer I'll tell you more about below. And who can say what history will reveal about today's designer antidepressants (including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft) touted directly to you endlessly on television and in magazines everywhere.

In the 60s, we called these dope pills tranquilizers. But the drug companies fooled the psychiatrists (not the real doctors) into thinking there was a pill for every neurosis. There is a chemical for your every problem and weakness. Anxiety? Take an "anxiolytic". Depressed? Take an "anti-depressant." Obsessive? Take an "obsessiolytic". Are you a kleptomaniac? Agoraphobic? Arachnophobic? No matter the ailment, the psychiatrists had a pill for it.

Valium was a progenitor of a long line of largely forgettable benzodiazepines - Compazine, Mellaril, Prolixin, Stellazine, Thorazine (King Thor, the first of the zines). These drugs cause everything from accidents, murder & suicide to tardive dyskinesia (TD). TD is a weird writhing of the muscles (especially those of face) that makes you look like an idiot.

I'll never forget the case of the Midwestern beauty queen who was rushed into the emergency ward of Sarasota Memorial Hospital by her hysterical mother, who was certain her daughter had suffered a stroke. The poor girl's face was contorted with the mouth and tongue in constant motion, the jaw was wagging about and her eyes were rolled up to the ceiling. Now this was a case any doctor should relish. Young Sally Ann had a classical case of TD - which responds dramatically to the proper treatment. There is hardly any place in medicine where a doctor can be such an instant hero.

When I first saw them, I reacted promptly (I was afraid the mother would have a stroke.) and asked her: "Sally Ann has been taking Stellazine, right?" [Very similar to Valium.]

She blinked. "Well, yes, but what does that have to do with it?" (Everybody thinks he's a doctor.) As it turned out, good old "Stella" had struck again. I have come to like her - but only in my neurotic patients. I wouldn't date her myself.

I had the nurse draw up some Benadryl for IV injection and assured Mommy Dearest that her daughter would be perfectly fine in a minute. As if on cue, in exactly one minute, the contortions ceased. Another miracle.

It's nice to have a medical story with a happy ending. Sally Ann went on to represent her state in the Miss America contest. I got paid but I didn't get kissed.