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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of news in brief

Lilly atherosclerosis trial halted
Eli Lilly & Company has suspended phase II trials for its experimental drug LY674, being tested for its safety and efficacy in slowing the progression of atherosclerosis, after fatty liver deposits were spotted in primates which had received the same compound in a different trial. The drug was hoped to slow, or even halt, the deterioration of clogged arteries by raising levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Lilly spokesman Phil Belt said that while the company has closed its12-week, 300 patient trial of LY674, a peroxisome proliferators-activated receptor alpha agonist, it was continuing to assess the unexpected finding.

New data backs Roche-AZ breast cancer combination
A combination of Rocheís Herceptin (trastuzumab) with AstraZenecaís Arimidex (anastrozole) has been shown to double survival, from 2.4 months to 4.8 months, for women with advanced breast cancer, according to new data published this week at the 31st European Society for Medical Oncology Congress, in Istanbul. The findings offer hope for around 15 per cent of patients who are expected to be eligible for the combined therapy, a group comprising post-menopausal women whose advanced breast cancer is both hormone receptor-positive (HR+) and HER2 positive. This is a particularly aggressive form of disease, with a higher likelihood of relapse.

Positive data boosts GWís MS prospect
The results of phase III trials, announced in late September at the 22nd Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, have indicated that GW Pharmaceuticalsí cannabis-based MS candidate Sativex is effective in treating spasticity. Over 15 weeks, 337 compliant patients showed a significant reduction in symptoms of spasticity in patients with advanced MS who had severe levels of spasticity despite ongoing treatment with the best available medications. In addition, 36 per cent of these reported an improvement of at least 30 per cent. In a second phase III trial, Sativex was shown to improve the symptoms of overactive bladder in 84 per cent of recipients, versus 58 per cent of the placebo group.

Basis for new diabetes drug
By mapping the atomic structure of a key enzyme involved in the bodyís metabolism of sugars, myo-inositol oxygenase (MIOX), a group of New Zealand-based researchers hope to have identified a platform from which a new class of drug could be developed to treat diabetes. Details of the molecular structure, which are presented in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences journal, may be useful in developing new drugs that inhibit MIOX activity, which it is thought will normalise inositol levels and help to reduce hyperglycaemic episodes in diabetics.

ëGenomic Signatureí hope
A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have developed a method for ëmatchingí drug to disease, in the hope of finding new ways in which existing drugs can treat new, or previously incurable, diseases. The key difficulty in tying to find drugs to target specific diseases is that ìdrugs and diseases are characterised in completely different scientific languagesî, the scientists commented. However, using a new ëConnectivity Mapí, which establishes connections between the two entities, the researchers have developed a ëgenomic signatureí, describing every gene that is turned on or off by a drug.  The team is understood to have already unveiled a new way of overcoming drug resistance in leukaemia. 

30th September 2008


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