Antibodies in shark may prevent growth of breast cancer

Antibodies in shark may prevent growth of breast cancer

A TYPE of antibody found only in the blood of sharks could help tackle breast cancer, scientists have said.

It is thought that the unique IgNAR antibodies could be used to prevent the growth of cancer cells and research into them could lead to the development of new drugs to fight one of the most common forms of the disease.

Biologists from the University of Aberdeen have been awarded 200,000 pounds ($345,660) by Scottish cancer research charity the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) to carry out a three-year study.

Their work will focus on two molecules, HER2 and HER3, found on the surface of cancer cells which, when they pair-up, are responsible for signaling cancer cells to grow and divide.

Potentially, IgNAR antibodies could be used to stop these molecules from working and sending the signal.

“IgNAR antibodies are interesting because they bind to targets, such as viruses or parasites, in a very different way to the antibodies found in humans,” said Dr Helen Dooley who is from the university’s School of Biological Sciences and will lead the study.

“They can do this because their attachment region is very small and so can fit into spaces that human antibodies cannot.

“We believe we can exploit the novel binding of IgNAR and use it to stop HER2 and HER3 molecules from working, and prompting cancer cells to grow and divide.”

Very high levels of HER2 are found on the surface of cancer cells in women who have HER2-positive breast cancer, this affects around a quarter of women with breast cancer.

While HER2-positive breast cancer can be treated with drugs but resistance to this successful treatment is a growing problem.

“With the funding from AICR we can begin to explore the potential of IgNAR as a future treatment for breast cancer,” Dooley said.

“This is only the first step in a very long process but if our hypothesis holds true we hope to develop new anti-cancer drugs based upon these unique shark antibodies.”
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Zydus launches diabetes treatment drug Lipaglyn

Pharmaceutical entity Zydus group today said it has launched Lipaglyn, its patented new drug for treatment of diabetes.

 Lipaglyn will be available across India and is priced at Rs 25.90 per tablet. It is recommended for once administration of once day as a 4mg tablet, the company said in a statement.

Commenting on the launch of the drug, Zydus Cadila Chairman and Managing Director Pankaj R Patel said: “It’s a great milestone for Indian pharmaceutical research today as Lipaglyn completes its journey from the lab to the market.”

The drug is marketed by Zydus Discovery, a new division launched to extensively market the original research product of Zydus group’s research pipeline.

Lipaglyn is a drug for treating diabetic dyslipidemeia, a condition where a person is diabetic and has elevated levels of total cholesterol.

In June, the company had said it expected the drug to be a “blockbuster” and clock over USD 1 billion sales a year when it will be sold globally.

Patel had said the company was in the process of filing applications in developed markets like US and Europe, after which it will tie up with other companies for marketing the drug.

The company had spent USD 250 million in developing Lipaglyn, which took nearly 12 years to fructify. It will be spending another USD 150-200 million to launch the drug in overseas markets in next 3-5 years period, Patel had said.

In India, the company expects Lipaglyn to clock an annual turnover of Rs 100 crore in the next 3-4 years.

Article originally appeared in Zee News

Johnson & Johnson recalls schizophrenia drug

Johnson & Johnson is voluntarily recalling one lot of schizophrenia drug Risperdal Consta after discovering mold during a routine testing process, a company spokeswoman said, and the latest in a string of recalls over the past two years.

Risperdal Consta is manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson. The company is recalling the drug from wholesalers, distributors, pharmacies and healthcare providers.

The medicine is a long-acting form of J&J’s Risperdal anti-psychotic medication, and is used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It is injected, unlike basic Risperdal, which is a pill.

“We estimate that fewer than 5,000 dose packs remain in the market considering our current inventory levels and the usage of this product,” spokeswoman Robyn Reed Frenze said in an email to Reuters. A single lot of Risperdal Consta consists about 70,000 dosage packs.

Frenze said that the risk to patients is considered low, and “there have been no trends of adverse events of infection associated with this lot”.

The spokeswoman added that the medication is administered to patients by healthcare professionals only, “and it is important that patients continue their prescribed treatment”.

In the past two years J&J has recalled over-the-counter drugs, contact lenses, heart devices, and insulin pump cartridges.

Source: Fox news

New vaccine promises to treat AIDS

Researchers have developed a vaccine that seems to have the capability of completely clearing an AIDS-causing virus from the body.

The promising vaccine candidate that is being developed at OHSU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute is being tested through the use of a non-human primate form of HIV, called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, which causes AIDS in monkeys.

Louis Picker, M.D., associate director of the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, said that the latest research suggests that certain immune responses elicited by a new vaccine may also have the ability to completely remove HIV from the body.

The Picker lab’s approach involves the use of cytomegalovirus, or CMV, a common virus already carried by a large percentage of the population. In short, the researchers discovered that pairing CMV with SIV had a unique effect.

They found that a modified version of CMV engineered to express SIV proteins generates and indefinitely maintains so-called “effector memory” T-cells that are capable of searching out and destroying SIV-infected cells.

T-cells are a key component of the body’s immune system, which fights off disease, but T-cells elicited by conventional vaccines of SIV itself are not able to eliminate the virus.

The SIV-specific T-cells elicited by the modified CMV were different. About 50 percent of monkeys given highly pathogenic SIV after being vaccinated with this vaccine became infected with SIV but over time eliminated all trace of SIV from the body.

In effect, the hunters of the body were provided with a much better targeting system and better weapons to help them find and destroy an elusive enemy.

The research has been published today by the journal Nature.

Roche drug works in early-stage breast cancer

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a positive review of a breast cancer drug from Roche that could soon become the first pharmaceutical option approved for treating early-stage disease before surgery.

In documents posted online, FDA scientists said women who received the drug Perjeta as initial treatment for breast cancer were more likely to be cancer-free at the time of surgery than women who received older drug combinations. Although the results come from mid-stage trials of the drug, FDA scientists recommended accelerating approval of the drug.

That step is reserved for groundbreaking drugs to treat life-threatening diseases.

Perjeta was first approved last summer to treat women with a subtype of breast cancer that has already spread to other parts of the body. But Roche’s Genentech unit is now seeking approval to use the drug at a much earlier stage of the disease: after diagnosis and before surgery to remove the tumor.

Surgery to remove tumors is the first step in treating virtually all forms of cancer. If approved, Perjeta would be the first cancer drug approved for use as a pre-surgical step. Using cancer drugs before surgery is still experimental, but doctors hope the approach could help shrink tumors to make them easier to remove. In some breast cancer cases, a tumor that is easier to operate on could allow women to keep their breasts, rather than having them surgically removed.

On Thursday, the FDA will ask an outside panel of cancer specialists whether Perjeta’s benefits outweigh its risks for treating early-stage breast cancer. Among other questions, the experts will be asked whether the preliminary results reported by Genentech are likely to result in longer overall survival for patients. The government agency isn’t required to follow the group’s advice, though it often does.

The panel will review a 417-woman study comparing Perjeta in different combinations against older breast cancer treatments. When Perjeta was combined with Herceptin, another Genentech drug, and standard chemotherapy, 39 percent of women saw their cancer reach undetectable levels. Only 21 percent of women experienced the same results from taking Herceptin and chemotherapy alone. After drug treatment all the women received standard breast surgery to remove any cancerous tumors. Genentech says this surgery allowed researchers to confirm the presence or absence of cancer.

Last year the FDA released guidelines for studying breast cancer drugs in the pre-surgical setting, with the aim of accelerating approval of promising therapies. Perjeta is the first drug to undergo FDA review since those recommendations were released. If approved, it could encourage more drugmakers to study cancer drugs for early-stage use.

“Despite advances in systemic therapy of breast cancer, there remains a need to expedite drug development and approval of highly effective therapies for patients with high-risk early-stage breast cancer,” the FDA states in its review.

Like Herceptin, Perjeta only works in a subset of about 20 percent of breast cancer patients who have tumors that overproduce a protein known as HER-2, which makes cancer cells rapidly divide and grow.

Breast cancer is the second most deadly form of cancer in U.S. women, and is expected to kill more than 39,000 Americans this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 6,000 to 8,000 deaths per year are attributed to the HER-2 form of the disease.

FDA scientists stress in their review that Genentech’s results are preliminary and will have to be confirmed in future trials. The company only measured the patients’ immediate response to the drug, and did not submit follow-up data showing whether the cancer returned or whether women ultimately lived longer. But agency scientists said the company’s approach “is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit,” and noted that Genentech is already enrolling patients in a late-stage trial that could confirm the results.

Since the early 1990s the FDA has granted accelerated approval to dozens of drugs based on promising early results, on the condition that their effectiveness is confirmed in later studies. That policy has been praised by patients with HIV, cancer and other deadly diseases where access to experimental treatments can mean life or death.

But the flipside of the program means removing drugs from the market if their initial promise isn’t confirmed by later studies. In 2011 the FDA was criticized by some cancer patients when it revoked breast cancer approval for another Genentech drug, Avastin. The FDA concluded that the drug did not help breast cancer patients live longer or bring enough other benefit to outweigh its dangerous side effects. The drug is still approved to treat colon cancer and other forms of the disease.

The FDA is scheduled to make a decision on whether to approve Perjeta for early-stage breast cancer by Oct. 31.

Source: Fox news

Lung cancer drug ‘could help treat ectopic pregnancy

A lung cancer drug could be given to women with ectopic pregnancies in a bid to help them avoid surgery.

A joint study by researchers in Edinburgh and Melbourne, Australia, found that combining a drug called gefitinib with existing treatment was more effective at curing the condition.

An ectopic pregnancy is when an embryo implants in the Fallopian tube.

It can be treated with drugs if identified early, but surgery is needed when it is more developed.

Each year, about 12,000 women in the UK have an ectopic pregnancy and the condition is responsible for up to 80% of pregnancy-related deaths.

The study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology, involved a trial of 12 women.

Gefitinib, usually used to treat lung cancer, blocks a protein that is known to encourage cell growth, and which was found to be present in high levels at the site of ectopic pregnancies.

Scientists from the Edinburgh University’s medical research council centre for reproductive health, and the University of Melbourne, suggested that combining gefitinib with the conventional treatment – called methotrexate – could reduce the need to remove the Fallopian tube in a significant number of cases.

They said this would help a patient’s level of fertility.

The researchers also found that the drug combination was able to shorten the time it took to successfully treat ectopic pregnancies in women who did not need surgery.

Dr Andrew Horne, who led the study, said: “An ectopic pregnancy can be extremely stressful for the woman involved.

“If we can reduce the need for surgery, and thereby help fertility levels, then that would be an enormous benefit.

“Reducing the treatment time for women who do not need surgery would also have a significant impact in reducing the emotional stress of such a diagnosis.”

Researchers now plan to run a larger trial.

Source: BBC News

CDC: Hard-hitting anti-smoking ads save lives

Graphic advertisements, featuring real people living with debilitating and disfiguring effects from smoking, are saving lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New research published in “The Lancet” medical journal suggests the first series of ads in the “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign encouraged at least 100,000 smokers to quit successfully — twice the number CDC officials had expected.

“We think this is a testament to the incredible power of the real stories that these people told,” said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “This is exactly what smokers had told us they thought would work the best to support them and motivate them to quit.”

The CDC ads, which appeared during the spring of 2012, featured real people living with amputated limbs, breathing through stomas and dealing with other smoking-related health problems.

In one ad, Terrie Hall, a North Carolina cancer survivor, demonstrates her morning routine of putting on a wig and false teeth, as well as a hands-free valve for her stoma. The ad made a lasting impression on a Kentucky mother, who said she quit smoking after watching the ad with her son.

“I noticed after she had stopped speaking and saying her part, you could see vulnerability and a little bit of disappointment and regret in her eyes that I could definitely agree with,” said Lisha Hancock. “There’s nothing that touched me like Terrie’s ad. It definitely impacted my life and, in return, impacted my family’s life. We all live happier and healthier now.”

“Hard-hitting ads work,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD.

The CDC paid approximately $50 million to produce and place the advertisements. It was the first time the federal government funded a nationwide tobacco education ad campaign.

Federal health officials say the campaign is a good investment because smokers who quit not only increase their life expectancies, but reduce their average annual health care expenses.

“The impact is huge because a smoker costs about $2,000 more (per year) than a non-smoker, and about $1,000 more than an ex-smoker, to care for,” Frieden said. “And if you do the math, this program pays for itself in a year or two in reduced health care and societal expenditures.”

The CDC has posted the ads online, along with resources for quitting smoking.

Read more: Fox News/health

F.D.A. Approves a Drug for Late-Stage Pancreatic Cancer

In a clinical trial, the Celgene drug Abraxane prolonged the lives of patients by a little less than two months on average.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved Celgene’s drug Abraxane for use in treating advanced pancreatic cancer, supplementing the thin arsenal available to fight the disease.

In a clinical trial, Abraxane prolonged the lives of patients by a little less than two months on average. Pancreatic specialists have said the drug was a welcome, if modest, advance against a disease that is extremely tough to treat.

“Patients with pancreatic cancer are often diagnosed after the cancer has advanced and cannot be surgically removed,” Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of cancer drugs for the F.D.A., said in a statement on Friday. “In these situations, and in situations where the cancer has progressed following surgery, options like Abraxane can help prolong a patient’s life.”

There will be about 45,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed in the United States this year and about 38,000 deaths, making it the fourth-leading cause of cancer death.

Patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer typically live only half a year. For years, researchers have tried to improve that by adding drugs to the standard treatment, gemcitabine, but without notable success.

Abraxane did provide a statistically significant improvement in survival. In its main clinical trial, patients who received Abraxane and gemcitabine lived a median of 8.5 months, compared to 6.7 months for those receiving only gemcitabine.

Abraxane will compete with Folfirinox, a combination of four generic drugs. Folfirinox appears to extend survival by a greater amount than Abraxane, but doctors say it is harder to tolerate and administer.

Abraxane is a novel form of paclitaxel, also known by the brand name Taxol. In Abraxane, the paclitaxel is bound in tiny particles to albumin, a human protein. That is said to enhance delivery of the drug to the tumor and reduce side effects.

Still, Abraxane can depress levels of white blood cells and platelets and raise the risk of bacterial blood stream infections and lung inflammation, the F.D.A. said.

Abraxane was approved to treat breast cancer in 2005 and lung cancer in 2012. Sales last year were $427 million. Celgene’s total revenue that year was $5.5 billion, mostly from the multiple myeloma drug Revlimid.

Geoffrey Meacham, a biotechnology analyst at J. P. Morgan, said in a note on Friday that he expected Abraxane to “rapidly becomes the standard of care” for pancreatic cancer. He said sales for that use could eventually exceed $750 million annually.

Celgene said the drug would cost $6,000 to $8,000 a month.

Source: Newyork times


Modeling hip joint disease using 3D engineering tool

Emma and her mum

Emma and her mum battled to get a diagnosis

When 11-year-old Emma Thornton starts secondary school soon, her mother Theresa says it will be a fresh start for her because no-one will know what she has been through over the past five years.

Problems with Emma’s left hip joint have left her with difficulty walking and a painful, stiff hip which could lead to an early hip replacement when she is older.

For an active, sporty child, Theresa knows it has been tough for her daughter to come to terms with her lack of mobility.

“She found it really hard not being able to take part in playground games with her friends. She couldn’t do PE – and she just had to sit there watching everyone else doing it. As a result, she got angry and frustrated.”

Emma, who lives in north London, has Perthes’ disease, which affects the head of the femur – the ball part of the ball and socket joint of the hip – in children. It normally starts with groin, hip or knee pain and usually affects just one leg.

Typical porous structure of the bone found in the femoral head.

Typical porous structure of the bone found in the femoral head

Bone modelling

Scientists from the University of Hull, funded by Action Medical Research, have begun a research project to try to work out why some children develop it while others do not.

With the help of a three-dimensional computer modelling technique, called finite element analysis, they are investigating how the shape and orientation of the hip joint influences the disease process. Such is the scope of the engineering tool that it has also been used in the design of cars and aircraft.

Prof Michael Fagan, who is leading the team carrying out the research, says the technique has distinct advantages for this kind of medical problem where modelling of bones is required.

“It allows us to visualise the hip joint and pelvis in 3D, then vary the geometry in the model to look at the stresses and strains created on the bones.”

Prof Fagan’s theory is that Perthes’ disease occurs because of a change in the biomechanics of the hip joint.

“The thinking is that as the hip joint grows, loading is high on the joint and that can block blood supply to the femoral head causing the collapse of the bone.”

His research team are using the same techniques to study whether certain activities and exercises, such as horse riding or swimming, might have the potential to stop the progression of the disease.


At present it is not possible to predict which children will develop Perthes’ disease. By the time they’re diagnosed, their thigh bone can often be already damaged.

In Emma’s case, there were crucial delays before and after diagnosis.

She had been trampolining when her sister found her collapsed and crying on the floor, complaining that she couldn’t stand up.

“I thought she’d just pulled a muscle,” her mum remembers.

“I helped her up again and she was was limping for a few days. A few weeks later, she was still favouring her right leg and then we noticed she’d started turning her foot in.”

X-rays showed that Emma had a larger hip joint gap on her left side, but they were assured it was unlikely to be Perthes’ disease.

But Theresa wasn’t convinced. It was only after she researched Emma’s symptoms on the internet and found out more about Perthes’ that she demanded that Emma’s X-rays be re-examined.

How Perthes’ disease affects the hip joint in children

An MRI scan eventually confirmed a diagnosis of Perthes’ in July 2008 – but then there were further delays.

Salvage procedure’

After surgery to release a tendon in her groin at a local hospital, Emma was advised to wear a hip brace for six weeks but when they finally decided to go and see a specialist at Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, they were told she had missed the window for corrective surgery.

“He could see that she had a severe condition. He said all he could do was carry out a salvage procedure for now,” Theresa says.

Hip joint detail

How Perthes’ disease affects the hip joint in children

Emma has now had surgery to help correct the angle of her hip using temporary metal plates.

Most children are lucky enough to recover from Perthes’ disease naturally without any long-term disability, using a combination of physiotherapy, rest and plaster casts or braces.

Emma’s case may not be quite as simple but she is now coping well and, although she limps, she can run, jump and swim and play football – as long as she doesn’t overdo it.

Starting a new school could be perfect timing and give her a whole new lease of life.


Two-drug combo to help in fight against HIV

A combination of decitabine and gemcitabine to be delivered in pill form, marks a major step forward in patient feasibility for the drugs

A research team has devised a new delivery system for a combination of two FDA approved drugs, which could help effectively treat HIV.

The discovery, which allows for a combination of decitabine and gemcitabine to be delivered in pill form, marks a major step forward in patient feasibility for the drugs, which previously had been available solely via injection or intravenous therapy (IV).

Steven Patterson, Ph.D., professor at the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota, said that if a person has a condition that requires them to take a medication every day, as many patients with HIV do, they wouldn`t want to have to take that medication via daily injection.

University of Minnesota researchers first announced decitabine and gemcitabine could potentially combine to treat HIV in research published in August 2010.

The drug combination was shown to work by lethal mutagenesis that could obliterate HIV by causing the virus to mutate to a point where it was no longer infectious. For some patients, HIV`s ability to quickly mutate and evolve can result in drug resistance.

For patients who have developed resistance to currently available HIV treatments, the decitabine-gemcitabine drug combination could prove an effective alternative and secondary line of defense.

In addition to a potentially effective treatment for humans with HIV, the combination also shows potential to treat cats with leukemia.

The study has been published online in the journal Antiviral Chemistry and Chemotherapy.