This Week in Health: HIV prevention drug appears promising
Location of study: U.S.
Study subjects: Rhesus macaque monkeys
Results: A new drug in development to prevent HIV infection showed promising results in a recent animal study. The drug at the center of the research blocks replication of the virus by inhibiting a viral enzyme from inserting DNA into chromosomes. The animal study investigated the drug’s protective effect in monkeys using a virus resembling HIV. Transmission by way of anal intercourse was simulated via intrarectal injection of the virus. “We treated the rhesus macaques with the drug then challenged the animals repeatedly with the virus to see if they’d get infected,” said Dr. Martin Markowitz, co-investigator and clinical director at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. “The treated monkeys did not get infected, while the untreated ones did.” In fact, 100 percent of the drug-treated monkeys remained virus-free.
Significance: Researchers say the data provides them with enough rationale to move forward with initial safety testing in humans. Developed by GlaxoSmithKline, the drug will soon be tested in sexually active men who are at low risk for HIV infection. Researchers hope to test the drug among high-risk individuals thereafter. The drug has the potential to prevent HIV via a shot administered every three months.
Location of study: Brazil
Study subjects: 36 women with cervical cancer
Results: A new targeted therapy may potentially change the standard of care for advanced cervical cancer. In a recent study, researchers at the Brazilian National Cancer Institute tested the effectiveness of an EGFR inhibitor called erlotinib. The drug was administered to participants in combination with standard chemoradiation. Over 94 percent of the women exhibited a complete disappearance of all cancerous lesions. What’s more is that after two years, over 90 percent of the patients were still alive with 80.6 percent experiencing no disease progression.
Significance: An over expression of EGFR is strongly associated with cervical cancer tumors. Inhibiting it seems to render better results than the standard treatment (chemoradiation therapy). “More effective and better-tolerated therapies are required for the management of locally advanced disease,” said Dr. Angélica Nogueira-Rodrigues of the Brazilian National Cancer Institute. “Targeted therapies may be added to the standard treatment if randomized trials confirm the current promising results.”
Location of study: U.S.
Study subjects: 191 women with stage zero to three breast cancer
Results: A recent study found that a regular yoga routine that included controlled breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques was linked to improved quality of life for women with breast cancer. Researchers divided the subjects into three groups with all participants continuing with their regular radiotherapy. One group participated in supplemental yoga and another added simple stretching exercises. The last group did not participate in any supplemental exercises. “What was apparent from the findings was that yoga resulted in improved aspects of quality of life, as well as improved stress hormone regulation,” said Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Significance: The research, which is part of an overarching effort from MD Anderson Cancer Center to better understand mind-body cancer interventions, found these effects to last up to six months after completing radiotherapy and the last yoga session. Women in the yoga group were also more likely to find meaning in their cancer experience.
Location of study: U.S.
Study subjects: Approximately 10,000 Americans in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005-2006
Results: Despite the widely held belief that certain regions are more likely to trigger allergic responses, a comprehensive new study has found that allergy prevalence is relatively the same throughout different U.S. regions. The only exception, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health, is in children five and younger. “People who are prone to develop allergies tend to become allergic to whatever is in their environment,” said Dr. Paivi Salo, an epidemiologist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. In other words, it’s what triggers an allergic reaction that varies throughout different regions. Outdoor allergies were more common in the West, while indoor allergies were more prevalent in the South. Sensitization to food allergies was highest in the South, as were sensitivities to cockroaches and dust mites.
Significance: The study represents the largest look at allergy prevalence from childhood through old age. The only participants to show a regional response to allergens were children aged one to five living in the South. This response was observed across Texas to Florida and as far north as West Virginia.
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