New Method Helps Researchers Zero In On Drugs That Can Kill Brain Cancer Stem Cells

October 13, 2011

Researchers with UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed a new screening approach to identify chemical compounds that can target and kill the stem cells responsible for creating deadly brain tumors.

Glioblastoma is one of the deadliest malignancies, typically killing patients within 12 to 18 months. These brain cancers consist of two kinds of cells: a larger, heterogeneous population of tumor cells and a smaller sub-population of stem cells, which are treatment-resistant.

The new high-throughput molecular screening approach developed by the UCLA team was specifically designed to find drugs that can target that sub-population and prevent it from re-seeding the brain cancer, said the study’s senior author, Dr. Harley Kornblum, a Jonsson Cancer Center scientist and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences.


Scientists Find Vitamin D Is Crucial In Human Immune Response To Tuberculosis

October 12, 2011

Vitamin D is not just important for building strong bones — it also plays an essential role in the body’s fight against infections such as tuberculosis, an international research team including UCLA scientists has found.

Tuberculosis, a potentially fatal lung disease, causes an estimated 1.8 million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization, and it especially impacts those with reduced immunity, such as HIV-infected individuals.

In an interesting twist, people with darker skin traditionally have had a higher susceptibility to tuberculosis, and areas of Africa lead the world with the highest infection rates. Scientists believe this may be partly due to the skin pigment melanin. Melanin is more abundant in darker skin, which helps shield the body from ultraviolet rays, but it also reduces vitamin D production.

Vitamin D — a natural hormone, rather than a vitamin — is known to be instrumental in bone development but also may protect against cancer and autoimmune diseases and fight infections.


High-Dose Vitamin E Increases Prostate Cancer Risk

October 11, 2011

High-dose vitamin E supplements increase the risk of prostate cancer, results of a large clinical trial show.

The study’s findings, published Oct. 12, 2011, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on an updated review of data from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). More than 35,000 men age 50 and older were enrolled in the study to determine whether selenium and vitamin E, either alone or in combination, can lower a man’s risk for prostate cancer.

Among the men who took high-dose vitamin E daily, the researchers found a 17 percent increase in prostate cancer, compared with men who took a placebo.


A New Use For Statins?

October 10, 2011

Johns Hopkins research suggests brain-injured patients on the cholesterol-lowering medication much more likely to survive.

Older patients who happened to have been taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs when admitted to the hospital with serious head injuries were 76 percent more likely to survive than those not taking the drugs, according to results of a Johns Hopkins study.

Those taking statins also had a 13 percent greater likelihood of achieving good, functional recovery after one year.

The findings hold out the promise of a specific drug treatment for traumatic brain injury, for which there is none, the researchers say, and could increase use of what is already an incredibly popular class of drugs prescribed to more than four in 10 senior citizens in the United States alone.

“These data are intriguing,” says Eric B. Schneider, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research, and the study’s leader. “We don’t think it’s the lowering of cholesterol that’s helping the brain recover in those who have been taking statins. We think there are other, less well-known properties of statins that are causing the benefits we seem to be seeing here.”

The results are reported in the October issue of The Journal of Trauma.


Researchers Uncover Cause of Hypertension From Antirejection Drugs

October 7, 2011

Modern medicine’s ability to save lives through organ transplantation has been revolutionized by the development of drugs that prevent the human body from rejecting the transplanted organ.

But those antirejection drugs have their own side effects — sometimes serious.

A group of researchers led by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University have discovered the process that may be causing many of those side effects. And the discovery means those side effects likely can be dealt with cheaply and easily — with a class of widely used drugs that are often avoided in patients with organ transplants.

The researchers’ findings were published this week in the online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.


The Crazy Ones – Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

……………….Steve Jobs

Food And Drugs: Administer Together

October 4, 2011

A regulatory bias against taking oral anti-cancer medications with food places many patients at increased risk for an overdose and forces them to “flush costly medicines down the toilet,” argues Mark Ratain, MD, an authority on cancer-drug dosing.

In a commentary published early online Sept. 19 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Ratain, the Leon O. Jacobson professor of medicine and director of the Center for Personalized Therapeutics at the University of Chicago Medical Center, says it could be safer, more effective and more cost-efficient if the many cancer drugs that are better absorbed with food were studied and, when appropriate, prescribed to be taken with food.

“Instead of taking high doses on a empty stomach–which is how most of these drugs are labeled–patients would be better off taking much lower doses along with a meal,” Ratain said. “This could reduce the risks of an overdose, save money and give patients more control over their daily lives.”


Clinical Trial Uncovers Potential ‘Functional Cure’ For Hiv/Aids

October 4, 2011

Data from a clinical trial involving UCLA researchers suggest that a new therapy may potentially serve as a “functional cure” for HIV/AIDS.

The therapy, called SB-728-T, involves the modification of both copies of a patient’s CCR5 gene, which encodes the major co-receptor used by HIV to infect immune system cells.

In the Sangamo BioSciences’ phase 1 trial, SB-728-T was given to HIV patients who were on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) but were considered to be “non-responders” — that is, their CD4+ T-cell levels, a key measure of immune system health, remained low. The patients’ HAART therapy was interrupted when they received the SB-728-T therapy.

The researchers found a statistically significant relationship between the suppression of HIV viral load and the level of circulating CD4+ T-cells that had undergone the CCR5 gene modification in patients treated with SB-728-T.


Ucla Study Shows Cell-Penetrating Peptides For Drug Delivery Act Like A Swiss Army Knife

October 3, 2011

Cell-penetrating peptides, such as the HIV TAT peptide, are able to enter cells using a number of mechanisms, from direct entry to endocytosis, a process by which cells internalize molecules by engulfing them.

Further, these cell-penetrating peptides, or CPPs, can facilitate the cellular transfer of various molecular cargoes, from small chemical molecules to nano-sized particles and large fragments of DNA. Because of this ability, CPPs hold great potential as in vitro and in vivo delivery vehicles for use in research and for the targeted delivery of therapeutics to individual cells.

But exactly how cell-penetrating peptides — and particularly the HIV TAT peptide — accomplish these tasks has so far been a mystery.

“The HIV TAT peptide is special. People discovered that one can attach almost anything to this peptide and it could drag it across the cell,” said Gerard Wong, a professor of bioengineering and of chemistry and biochemistry at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. “So there are obvious beneficial drug-delivery and biotechnology applications.”


Study Of Cox-2 Inhibitors Could Lead To New Class Of Stroke Drugs

October 3, 2011

A study, in mice, by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine points toward potential new therapies for stroke, the nation’s third-leading cause of death and foremost single cause of severe neurological disability. The study, published online Oct. 3 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, also may reveal why a much-heralded class of blockbuster drugs failed to live up to their promise.

Medical experts were excited when over a decade ago a class of drugs called COX-2-selective inhibitors came along. These new drugs were supposed to retain the advantages of aspirin and other so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, without causing stomach damage.

But in large-scale clinical trials of COX-2-selective inhibitors, puzzling — and disturbing — side effects emerged: namely, an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. One already-approved drug in this category, rofecoxib (Vioxx), was pulled from the market in 2004. Another drug in this class is celecoxib, or Celebrex.


Vanderbilt-Fox Foundation Partnership Yields Drug-Like Molecules Aimed At Improving Treatment Of Parkinson’s Disease

October 1, 2011

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have achieved a milestone in the development of a potential new treatment for Parkinson’s disease that may improve on some of the limitations of current therapy.

Three drug-like molecules that act on a specific glutamate receptor in the brain are ready for the next stage of preclinical testing prior to entering human trials. The molecules were developed with major support from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).

If all goes well in final preclinical testing, the molecules could be ready for clinical testing as soon as 2013, says Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery. “We are very excited to reach this major milestone and are eager to fully understand the extent of benefit that this new treatment strategy will have in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease,” Conn said.


FDA Guidance Document Describes Enforcement Priorities for Unapproved New Drugs

October 1, 2011

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a guidance document detailing the agency’s enforcement priorities for unapproved new drugs. Specifically, the guidance aims to clarify for FDA personnel and industry how FDA intends to exercise enforcement discretion regarding unapproved drugs and to emphasize that illegally marketed drugs must obtain FDA approval. “FDA estimates that in the United States today perhaps as many as several thousand drug products are marketed illegally without required FDA approval.” The document outlines the categories that will continue to be considered a higher priority for enforcement actions including unapproved drugs with potential safety risks or those that lack evidence of effectiveness, health fraud drugs that make deceptive claims, and drugs that are reformulated to evade an FDA enforcement action. Drugs that “present direct challenges to the new drug approval and OTC drug monograph systems” and unapproved new drugs that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act “in other ways” are also included on the high priority list. FDA notes that the agency may potentially exercise enforcement discretion regarding “unapproved drug products that are being commercially used or sold as of September 19, 2011.” And the document indicates that “All unapproved drugs introduced onto the market after that date are subject to immediate enforcement action at any time, without prior notice and without regard to the enforcement priorities set forth.” The document also describes instances when a notice of enforcement may be issued and factors that may be considered in determining whether the agency may allow continued marketing of a product.


Cocaine Users Have 45 Percent Increased Risk of Glaucoma

October 1, 2011

A study of the 5.3 million men and women seen in Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics in a one-year period found that use of cocaine is predictive of open-angle glaucoma, the most common type of glaucoma.
The study revealed that after adjustments for race and age, current and former cocaine users had a 45 percent increased risk of glaucoma. Men with open-angle glaucoma also had significant exposures to amphetamines and marijuana, although less than cocaine.

Patients with open-angle glaucoma and history of exposure to illegal drugs were nearly 20 years younger than glaucoma patients without a drug exposure history (54 years old versus 73 years old).

Study results appear in the September 2011 issue of Journal of Glaucoma.


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