HEALTH

Cancer center may have found link between GIST, targeted therapy

BY Michael Johnsen

ORLANDO, Fla. Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center uncovered a genetic pattern that may help predict how gastrointestinal stromal tumor patients respond to the targeted therapy Gleevec (imatinib mesylate). Moreover, their findings point to genes that could be suppressed in order to make these tumors respond more readily to imatinib.

“Imatinib has been the first drug that has really made a dent in GIST progression – up to 80% response – yet some GIST patients have little or no response to the drug,” commented Lori Rink, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Andrew Godwin at Fox Chase. “We are looking to see how we can help clinicians make better decisions in applying imatinib or additional therapies to their GIST patients,” she said. “Our data indicate that if we can alter the activity of some of these KRAB-zinc finger proteins, we may be able to enhance the effectiveness of imatinib therapy.”

Rink presented their findings at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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Influenza activity above national baseline, CDC reports

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Influenza activity remained above the national baseline for the week ended May 9, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released Friday, indicating that there are higher levels of influenza-like illness than is normal for this time of year.

As of May 18, there were 5,123 confirmed infections with novel influenza A (H1N1) virus. But that’s not the only influenza virus out there currently, the CDC noted. Illness rates are particularly prevalent in the Pacific Nortwest and in the Southwest, the CDC noted. During week 18, seasonal influenza A (H1), A (H3), and B viruses continued to co-circulate with novel influenza A (H1N1). Only about half of all influenza viruses being detected are novel H1N1 viruses.

There are more than 200 hospitalizations associated with H1N1 so far. The majority of those hospitalizations are occurring in a younger, healthier population — primarily ranging in patients between 5 and 24. Unlike the typical seasonal flu virus, hospitalizations among patients over the age of 65 is relatively rare.

The spike in illness rates may be more a result of more testing than an actual increase in influenza-like illnesses typical for this late in the season.

“I can with great certainty say that that is a reflection of the amount of testing that’s going on,” noted Dan Jernigan, CDC’s deputy influenza director, during a conference call with reporters Friday. “That significant increase is a reflection of this profound amount of testing that has gone on in the last few weeks. … What that means is that there is, even at this end of the usual season, the regular season, a fair amount of regular viruses that are circulating in addition to these from [H1N1].”

Based on activity so far, the novel H1N1 virus could impact as many as 100,000 people.

“If we had to make an estimate, I would say that the amount of activity we’re seeing with our influenza-like illness network is probably upwards of maybe 100,000, but that’s something we will have a much better estimate of once we get the information back from the field teams that are collecting that data,” Jernigan suggested.

The CDC also increased its death toll associated with the H1N1 virus on Monday — there are now six deaths associated with the novel virus, with the most recent a school official from New York City. Currently, there are 22 U.S. states that are reporting widespread or regional influenza activity. So far, there are 173 hospitalizations that have been reported to CDC attributed to the H1N1 virus.

“The H1N1 virus is not going away,” Jernigan said. “We know that the outbreak is not localized but is spreading and appears to be expanding throughout the United States.”

Click here to view the updated 2008/2009 flu season map.

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Type 2 diabetes on the rise in children, experts say

BY Alaric DeArment

HOUSTON Despite its “adult-onset” designation, Type 2 diabetes has risen at a high rate among children, and this has experts worried.

Physicians gathered in Houston Saturday to discuss strategies for preventing and treating the disease among children and adolescents at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists’ 18th Annual Meeting & Clinical Congress.

“Type 2 diabetes is extremely complex,” pediatric endocrinologist and session monitor A. Jay Cohen said. “The rapid rise in obesity, physical inactivity and the consumption of excess calories seems to have led to the epidemic of children with Type 2 diabetes.”

The National Institutes of Health is conducting two clinical trials to identify children at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and demonstrate the effectiveness of lifestyle intervention. In the first trial, researchers are tracking 6,400 children from sixth to eighth grade to determine if modifications in exercise programs and nutrition in the school environment can reduce the risk of the disease, measuring the children’s body mass indices, fasting glucose levels and fasting insulin levels. In the second trial, the researchers will explore the best treatment options.

“It is imperative to expose the social, behavioral and environmental factors which have led to this epidemic,” pediatric endocrinologist and study chairwoman Francine Kaufman said.

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