Headlines: June 6, 2011
by Tony Kikendall
Two new drugs are helping in the fight against melanoma. The first drug, vemurafenib, impedes a genetic mutation which speeds up tumor growth. Eighty-four percent of those on the drug in the trial were still alive after six months, an improvement of 21 percent. The second drug, ipilimumab, combined with the older drug, dacarbazine, made the average survival for metastatic melanoma 11.2 months, rather than 9.1 months, the figure for those only on dacarbazine. 20.8 percent of those treated with ipilumab were alive after three years, an improvement of 8.2 percent. Ipillimumab temporarily increases the effects of the body's immune system to combat the cancer. Melanoma is one of the leading types of cancer amongst young people and incidences of it have been rising in the past decade. Doctors will soon be testing these two new drugs in conjunction with one another.
German authorities believe that sprouts from a farm in northern Germany were the source of the recent E. coli outbreak. The agriculture minister has advised Germans to not eat sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, or lettuce until further information is available. This evidence casts blame on the German government, who had earlier blamed the E. coli outbreak on Spanish farmers, causing them to lose an estimated $286 million in the midst of a major financial crisis.
A drug, exemestane, previously used to prevent recurrences of breast cancer, may also be used to prevent cancer before one has it. The drug, an aromatose inhibitor, halts estrogen production, thereby stopping tumor growth. Amongst women at high risk for breast cancer, the trial showed a 65% risk reduction after three years. Side effects for the drug included increased incidences of hot flashes and arthritis.
Another new drug, crizotinib, has proven effective at non-small cell lung cancer with a certain mutation. The drug, developed by Pfizer, improved surival rates to 74% for a year and 54% for two years. Worldwide, 50,000 people a year discover they have this particular kind of cancer.
Tony Kikendall is a rising second year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email him with any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns.