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Archive - Apr 17, 2011

FGF9 Appears to Aid Regeneration of Blood Supply in Damaged Tissue

Researchers at The University of Western Ontario have discovered a strategy for stimulating the formation of highly functional new blood vessels in tissues that are starved of oxygen. Dr. Geoffrey Pickering and Matthew Frontini at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry developed a strategy in which a biological factor, called fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9), is delivered at the same time that the body is making its own effort at forming new blood vessels in vulnerable or damaged tissue. The result is that an otherwise unsuccessful attempt at regenerating a blood supply becomes a successful one. Their findings were published online in Nature Biotechnology on April 17, 2011. "Heart attacks and strokes are leading causes of death and disability among Canadians. Coronary bypass surgery and stenting are important treatments but are not suitable for many individuals," explains Dr. Pickering, a professor of Medicine (Cardiology), Biochemistry, and Medical Biophysics, and a scientist at the Robarts Research Institute. "Because of this, there has been considerable interest in recent years in developing biological strategies that promote the regeneration of a patient's own blood vessels." This potential treatment has been termed 'therapeutic angiogenesis'. "Unfortunately and despite considerable investigation, therapeutic angiogenesis has not as yet been found to be beneficial to patients with coronary artery disease. It appears that new blood vessels that form using approaches to date do not last long, and may not have the ability to control the flow of blood into the areas starved of oxygen." The work of Dr. Pickering and collaborators provides a method to overcome these limitations.

New Therapeutic Target for Asthma, COPD and Other Lung Disorders

Dr. Michael Croft, a researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, and colleagues have discovered a molecule's previously unknown role as a major trigger for airway remodeling, which impairs lung function, making the molecule a promising therapeutic target for chronic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and several other lung conditions. A scientific paper on Dr. Croft's finding was published online on April 17, 2011, in Nature Medicine. The finding marks Dr. Croft's second major discovery with therapeutic potential for asthma. His previous finding, of a novel molecular mechanism driving lung inflammation, is the basis for a potential asthma treatment now in Phase II human clinical trials. "Dr. Croft's continued efforts to uncover the cellular pathways influencing asthma and other lung disorders have produced remarkable results," said Dr. Mitchell Kronenberg, La Jolla Institute president and chief scientific officer. "He is a researcher of the highest caliber and I believe his discoveries will someday improve the lives of millions of people around the world." In the Nature Medicine paper entitled, "The tumor necrosis factor family member LIGHT is a target for asthmatic airway remodeling," Dr. Croft and colleagues showed that blocking LIGHT's interactions with its two receptors significantly inhibited the process of airway remodeling in mouse models of chronic asthma. Airway remodeling refers to inflammation-fueled structural changes in the lungs, including fibrosis, which can occur over time and result in declining lung function that strongly contributes to conditions such as COPD, chronic asthma, and several other respiratory disorders. Asthma affects more than 20 million Americans, including nine million children, and is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among U.S.

FDA Approves Treatment Device for Recurrent Glioblastoma

On April 14, 2011, Novocure announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the NovoTTF-100A System (NovoTTF) for the treatment of adult patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumors, following tumor recurrence after receiving chemotherapy. The portable, wearable device delivers an anti-mitotic, anti-cancer therapy as patients maintain their normal daily activities. The NovoTTF is a novel, first-in-class treatment option for patients and physicians battling glioblastoma. "Our device provides patients and physicians with a novel, non-invasive alternative to chemotherapy that is safe and effective," said Dr. Eilon Kirson, Novocure's Chief Medical Officer. "The device allows for continuous treatment without the usual, debilitating side effects that chemotherapies inflict on recurrent GBM patients and indirectly on their families." The NovoTTF-100A System is a portable, non-invasive medical device designed for continuous use throughout the day by the patient. The device has been shown in in vitro studies to slow and reverse tumor growth by inhibiting mitosis, the process by which cells divide and replicate. The NovoTTF-100A device, which weighs about six pounds (three kilograms), creates a low intensity, alternating electric field within the tumor that exerts physical forces on electrically charged cellular components, preventing the normal mitotic process and causing cancer cell death prior to division. Novocure currently has US and European marketing approvals for the NovoTTF-100A. Results from a 237 patient randomized pivotal trial demonstrated that compared to patients treated with chemotherapy, NovoTTF-treated patients achieved comparable median overall survival times, had fewer side effects, and reported improved quality of life scores.