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R&D news in brief

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

Long-term HRT linked with increased risk of breast cancer
Long-term use of oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the risk of breast cancer, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. The research, carried out by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, followed a group of female nurses who took part in a long-term study which began in 1976. Throughout the period of study, 934 women developed invasive breast cancers; of these 708 had used oestrogen therapy while 226 had never used hormones. Those who had been taking oestrogen for less than 10 years did not appear to have a higher risk than those who had never taken hormones. Despite the results, Henry Scowcroft of the charity Cancer Research UK, said: ìHRT still remains an effective short-term treatment for relief of menopausal symptoms.î

Positive results for bowel drug
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Adolar have reported positive clinical trial results of Entereg (alvimopan), its experimental bowel drug. In a randomised double-blind phase IIb study of 522 patients taking opioids for persistent non-cancer, patients reported a `significant improvement' in gastrointestinal symptoms associated with opioid use, including constipation, abdominal pain and bloating. ìThe findings from this study suggest that alvimopan may play an important role in treating these GI side effects in patients by blocking the effects opioids have on the gut without adversely impacting the effect on pain control,î said Dr Lynn Webster of Lifetree Clinical Research and Pain Clinic in Salt Lake City. Treatment of opiate-induced bowel problems is the main potential market for Entereg, although GSK and Adolor are also hoping to win early approval for its use as an aid in helping patients recover after bowel resection surgery.

Humira effective in RA study
Abbott Laboratories' arthritis drug, Humira, offers significant benefits to patient outcomes in both rheumatoid and psoriatic forms of the disease, according to new data presented at the annual meeting of the British Society for Rheumatology. In one study looking at patients with active and progressive RA, 29 per cent more patients taking Humira in combination with methotrexate exhibited no further joint damage from baseline after two years, compared with those taking methotrexate alone. In the same study, patients taking the combination therapy reported greater improvements in their physical functions and felt less tired than those taking methotrexate alone.

Smoking cessation drug under fast-track FDA review
A new kind of drug has now been developed that could improve long-term quit rates for smokers, according to Dr Jonathan Foulds from the Tobacco Dependence Program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Varenicline is being evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration under a six-month priority review which began in late 2005. The drug is the first treatment specifically designed to target the neurobiological mechanism of nicotine dependence and initial results have shown that it successfully stimulates dopamine as well as blocking nicotine receptors. Despite smokers who use nicotine patches or Zyban being twice as likely to succeed at giving up the habit as those who don't use medications, more than 80 per cent of quitters will be smoking again within a year, according to a review in the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

30th September 2008


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