Ann Conkle
May 11, 2012

Medical Weekly: Top trends for 5/7-5/11

Here’s the top medical news of this week!

Two new studies may lead to a cure for the HIV virus, seen here.Promising new HIV treatments give hope for eventual cure


The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the most pressing global health challenges of the past few decades. There is no known cure for HIV or AIDS and current treatment consists of a cocktail of antiretroviral drugs designed to keep the virus from replicating and propagating in the body. Resistance to these drugs, currently estimated at approximately 3.7 percent worldwide, has resulted in HIV virus mutations, new localized strains, and the need to develop more aggressive second-tier treatments. Two new studies published represent both potential breakthroughs for effective HIV treatment as well as a new direction for experimentation in therapy and prevention. Could we be looking at the inception of a medical miracle, thirty years in the making?


Brain cancer patients' own stem cells protected against chemotherapy side effects.Stem cells protect from side effects of chemotherapy


Scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have transplanted brain cancer patients' own gene-modified blood stem cells in order to protect their bone marrow against chemotherapy’s toxic side effects. Initial results of the ongoing, small trial, involving three patients with glioblastoma, showed that two patients survived longer than predicted if they had not been given the transplants, and a third patient remains alive with no disease progression almost three years after treatment. "We found that patients were able to tolerate the chemotherapy better and without negative side effects after transplantation of the gene-modified stem cells than patients in previous studies who received the same type of chemotherapy without a transplant of gene-modified stem cells," said Hans-Peter Kiem, M.D., senior author of the study, published today in Science Translational Medicine.


Roche has discontinued all trials of a once-promising cholesterol drug. Roche gives up on cholesterol drug trial, prompting questions about others in CETP class


This week, Roche announced that it has discontinued development of its cholesterol drug dalcetrapib, marking the end of the story for a drug once touted as a potential blockbuster candidate for the company and casting doubts on the two remaining prospects for cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitors currently in clinical trials. CETP inhibitors have been highly-touted, but also have a rocky history: dalcetrapib is the second CETP drug candidate to be dropped by its developer, leaving just two more -- Merck’s anacetrapib and Eli Lilly & Co.’s evacetrapid -- in development.

Probiotics, like those found in yogurt, can prevent antibiotic-associated bacteria.Probiotics can reduce risk of diarrhea caused by antibiotics


RAND researchers conducted an extensive review of the medical literature to determine whether probiotic use can prevent and treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Probiotics are microorganisms that are believed to improve health by maintaining a normal balance of microorganisms in the human intestines. They are contained in some food products and also are sold as nutritional supplements. Use of probiotics was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of developing diarrhea when taking antibiotics as compared to not using probiotics. However, researchers were unable to determine if any specific microorganisms were better than others because the included strains were poorly documented and often given as blends of several types.