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R&D News in brief

Our weekly round-up of R&D news in brief

Increased risk of suicides in elderly taking SSRIs
Elderly people prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are almost five times more likely to commit suicide during the first month of treatment than those given other drugs to treat depression, according to a new study. ìDoctors are way too liberal with these drugs,î said lead author of the Canadian study by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), Dr David Juurlink. The ICES group linked coroners records with prescription data, physician billing claims and hospitalisation data for more than 1.2 million Ontario residents, aged 66 and over, from 1992 to 2000. They found that of 1,329 suicides, most were men and 68 per cent were taking no antidepressant. In the first month of treatment with an antidepressant, there were 72 suicides among SSRI users, nearly five times the number on older antidepressants.

Lung cancer drug could fight breast tumours
British scientists say women who develop breast cancer because of two common genetic mutations could have their treatment transformed by a chemotherapy drug. Carboplatin, currently used to treat ovarian and lung cancers, could be up to 20 times more effective than standard therapies for breast tumours triggered by defects in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, they said. ìThere is an increasing realisation that breast cancer is not just one disease, but that different types of tumour will respond differently to particular drugs,î said Andrew Tutt, consultant oncologist at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London. ìThis genetically tailored chemotherapy treatment acts in a much more focused manner than standard chemotherapy.î

Clue to TGN1412 tragedy
Scientists at the University of California have identified a mechanism designed to prevent the immune system overreacting, which is present in apes but not in humans. The discovery may explain why six volunteers were hospitalised after taking TGN1412, a monoclonal antibody that was previously tested on animals. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said researchers found a molecule expressed in non-human primate T-cells that is absent in humans.

30th September 2008

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