Syndicate content

Archive - Mar 10, 2011

EGFR Blockers Should Be Considered for First-Line Therapy in Certain Lung Cancers

Louisiana State University oncologist Dr. Vince D. Cataldo is the lead author of a review article reporting two chemotherapy drugs now indicated for second and third-line therapy in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are remarkably effective in treating a certain subset of these patients. Dr. Cataldo, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, practicing at LSU's Earl K. Long Medical Center and Hematology-Oncology Clinic in Baton Rouge, and his colleagues say these drugs should be considered as a first-line treatment in people who are known to carry an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation. The paper is published in the March 10, 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The drugs, erlotinib and gefitinib, which are in a class of highly-specific small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors, work by blocking the activation of EGFR which is involved in cell survival and growth, as well as the development of a nourishing blood supply and metastasis. "Targeting the genetic mutation contributing to the development of the cancer, this class of drugs produced a response rate that exceeded 70% in these patients," noted Dr. Cataldo. The drugs, taken by mouth, also had fewer side effects. Unlike traditional cytotoxic agents, erlotinib and gefitinib do not typically cause myelosuppression, neuropathy, alopecia, or severe nausea. Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, accounted for an estimated 157,300 deaths in the United States in 2010. Approximately 85 to 90% of all cases of lung cancer are NSCLC, which is also associated with smoking.

FDA Approves First New Drug for Lupus in Over 50 Years

Human Genome Sciences, Inc., and GlaxoSmithKline PLC announced on March 9, 2011, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved BENLYSTA® (belimumab) for the treatment of adult patients with active, autoantibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who are receiving standard therapy. “We and GSK are honored to have the opportunity, with the approval of FDA, to bring BENLYSTA forward in the United States as the first new drug for systemic lupus in more than 50 years,” said H. Thomas Watkins, President and Chief Executive Officer, HGS. “We expect to have this novel therapy available to physicians and patients within about two weeks, and our entire organization looks forward to the positive impact we hope this new therapy will have for patients with systemic lupus.” Dr. Monsef Slaoui, Chairman, GSK Research and Development, said, “The approval of BENLYSTA is an important step for appropriate lupus patients. Patients have been waiting for new treatment options to help manage this chronic disease. We look forward to working together with HGS to bring this new medicine to patients in the U.S.” BENLYSTA (belimumab) is the first in a new class of drugs called BLyS-specific inhibitors. Belimumab blocks the binding of soluble BLyS, a B-cell survival factor, to its receptors on B cells. Belimumab does not bind B cells directly, but by binding BLyS, belimumab inhibits the survival of B cells, including autoreactive B cells, and reduces the differentiation of B cells into immunoglobulin-producing plasma cells. BLyS is a naturally occurring protein which was discovered by HGS in 1996.

Study Yields Explanation for Link Between Low Birth Weight and Later Obesity

Providing further understanding of the link between low birth weights and obesity later in life, researchers have found that nutritionally deprived newborns are "programmed" to eat more because they develop fewer neurons in the region of the brain that controls food intake, according to an article published on March 10, 2011, in the journal, Brain Research. The study, by a team of researchers at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed), suggests that overeating is programmed at the level of stem cells before birth when the mother has poor or inadequate nutrition. Using an animal model, the researchers found less division and differentiation of the neural stem cells of a newborn with low birth weight as compared to normal birth weight. Previous studies have found a small size at birth followed by accelerated "catch-up" growth is associated with an increased risk of adult obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis. "This study demonstrates the importance of maternal nutrition and health in reducing obesity," said Dr. Mina Desai, an LA BioMed principal investigator and corresponding author of the new study. "Obesity and its related diseases are the leading cause of death in our society, yet we have few effective strategies for prevention or treatment. These studies suggest maternal nutrition could play a critical role in preventing obesity and related disease." In addition to obesity, the findings of altered brain (neural stem cells) development suggest that fetal growth restriction may be associated with cognitive and/or behavioral alterations. Importantly, the study offers potential opportunities for prevention and treatment for obesity and other related disorders. In addition to Dr. Desai, LA BioMed investigators Dr.