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Archive - Mar 10, 2010

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New Drug Candidate Reduces Blood Lipids

Results of a recent clinical trial indicate that a thyroid-hormone-like substance that works specifically on the liver reduces blood cholesterol with no serious side effects. The trial was conducted by researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and collaborating institutions. Presently, high cholesterol levels in the blood are primarily treated with a group of drugs called statins, but these drugs are not always sufficiently effective and higher doses commonly cause adverse reactions. In this new clinical trial, researchers showed that a new thyroid hormone analogue called eprotirome can reduce blood cholesterol effectively in patients who have already received statins. Patients who were given supplementary medication with eprotirome demonstrated levels of harmful blood fats that were as much as 30 percent lower than those of patients who received a placebo supplementary treatment. "This drug could help patients who react adversely to statins or be used as a supplementary treatment for those who don't respond well to them," said Dr. Bo Angelin, who led the study. Eprotirome mimics the natural ability of thyroid hormone to stimulate the metabolism of cholesterol, and exerts its effects exclusively on the liver. The development of similar, non-selective drugs has previously been stopped on account of the serious adverse effects they have had on other organ systems (e.g., cardiac dilatation and osteoporosis) or on the physiological regulation of thyroid hormones. The new clinical trial results were published in the March 11, 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. [Press release] [NEJM abstract]

Familial Mutation Identified in African-Americans with Prostate Cancer

The first inherited mutation in African-American men with a family history of prostate cancer has been identified by researchers from Louisiana State University. "We detected this mutation only in African-American men with prostate cancer," noted senior author Dr. Shahriar Koochekpour. "We found it in the cell's androgen receptor (AR), a protein which interacts and responds to male sex hormones. This protein is profoundly involved in prostate cancer formation and its progression to an advanced metastatic, incurable stage. We believe that this mutation increases the risk of the development and progression of prostate cancer, in part by altering the receptor's DNA-binding ability, and by regulating the activities of other genes and proteins involved in the growth and aggressive behavior of tumors. We are hopeful that this discovery will eventually lead to a simple genetic test for prostate cancer for African-American men who are at high risk for developing prostate cancer, allowing genetic counseling and earlier, potentially life-saving treatment.” The authors noted that additional studies will be required to define the frequency and contribution of the mutation to early-onset and/or familial prostate cancer in African Americans. African-American men have a higher incidence and death rate from prostate cancer, as well as clinically more aggressive disease than Caucasians. According to the American Cancer Society's most current data for 2009-2010, prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. Between 2001 and 2005, the prostate cancer incidence rate was 59% higher in African-American men. African-American men also have the highest mortality rate for prostate cancer of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.