February 24, 2017

Health Roundup: Chronic fatigue syndrome, gene therapy for blood cancer and Alzheimer's

One of the Biggest Myths About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Just Got Debunked. Chronic fatigue IS a real disease.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is one of the most perplexing conditions out there. It affects up to 1 million Americans and as much as 2.6 percent of the global population, often triggering exhaustion so severe that patients can't work or study.

But for decades, researchers have struggled to find an underlying cause, leading to an assumption by many doctors that it's 'not a real disease'. Now, Australian researchers have blown that myth wide open, showing for the first time that CFS is linked to a faulty cell receptor in immune cells. Not only is this the first research to show how the faulty cell receptor causes the immune system changes seen in CFS/ME, it also offers researchers a long-sought-after target for future treatments and tests.

It was two years ago that the US officially listed CFS/ME as a disease, [renaming it  ‘systemic exertion intolerance disease’, or SEID for short....There's still no way to test for the disease, and no effective treatment.  In fact, the two most commonly prescribed treatments for the condition are cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise, neither of which have any evidence to support they work - and many feel could actually be doing more harm than good.
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The new research suggests that all of the common CFS/ME symptoms can be explained by these faulty calcium ion channels.

"We now know that this is a dysfunction of a very critical receptor and the critical role that this has, which causes severe problems to cells in the body," said Don Staines, co-director of Griffith University's National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases.  Already, Staines and his team are working to figure out the best markers that can be used to test for these faulty receptors, so they can begin to create a CFS/ME test. They're also looking for medications that act on these specific calcium ion channels in the hopes of finding potential treatments for the disease.

Gene therapy 'seems extraordinary' at fighting blood cancer, US drug firm study claims

An experimental gene therapy that turns a patient's own blood cells into cancer killers has worked with 'extraordinary' results in a major study.  More than one-third of very sick lymphoma patients showing no sign of disease six months after a single treatment, its maker said on Tuesday.  In all, 82 percent of patients had their cancer shrink at least by half at some point in the study.
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The therapy is not without risk. Three of the 101 patients in the study died of causes unrelated to worsening of their cancer, and two of those deaths were deemed due to the treatment. ...The treatment involves filtering a patient's blood to remove key immune system soldiers called T-cells, altering them in the lab to contain a gene that targets cancer, and giving them back intravenously.

Doctors call it a 'living drug' - permanently altered cells that multiply in the body into an army to fight the disease...Its sponsor, California-based Kite Pharma, is racing Novartis AG to become the first to win approval of the treatment, called CAR-T cell therapy, in the U.S. It could become the nation's first approved gene therapy.  It was developed at the government's National Cancer Institute and then licensed to Kite. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society helped sponsor the study.

Is the Leading Theory About Alzheimer's Wrong?  Yet another failed drug trial has prompted soul-searching about the “amyloid hypothesis.”

The “amyloid hypothesis” began with a simple observation: Alzheimer’s patients have an unusual buildup of the protein amyloid in their brains. Thus, drugs that prevent or remove the amyloid should slow the onset of dementia. Yet all drugs targeting amyloid—including solanezumab from Eli Lilly and bapineuzumab from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, to add a few more high-profile flameouts to the fail pile—have not worked so far.
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Other skeptics of the amyloid hypothesis are coming back to tau, the protein Selkoe left decades ago to focus on amyloid. In the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, tau gets twisted into tangles that block the internal transport system of neurons. A recent failed trial aside, several drugs targeting tau are in early phases of clinical trials.
Posted by Jill Fallon at February 24, 2017 12:22 PM | Permalink