Category Archives: Sickness

What Are Living Drugs and How Could They Fight Cancer?

What Are Living Drugs and How Could They Fight Cancer?

While most drugs developed in the United States today consist of natural or synthetic compounds, living drugs are comprised of fully functional cells, selected and modified to target certain diseases. In this article we look at living drugs and their potential to treat a range of virulent diseases, including cancer.

One area in which living drugs demonstrate particular potential is in the field of immunotherapy, as a type of cancer treatment that involves stimulating a patient’s own immune system to fight disease.

The first living drug received FDA approval for use on cancer patients in 2017

A new cancer therapy approved by the FDA in 2017, CAR-T involves extracting a patient’s own white blood cells. The cells are genetically reprogrammed to recognize and destroy cancer cells before being reintroduced into the body.

CAR-T therapies are tailor-made for each patient, marking a shift from conventional cancer therapies such as chemotherapy or surgery. The “living drug” therapy effectively reprograms a patient’s own immune system to make it more effective at seeking out and destroying cancer cells.

treatment

Novartis is responsible for developing CAR-T, which costs around $475,000 per treatment. Medical practitioners have reported that the drug has an 83% success rate in curing acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb of the FDA explained that this new approach to treating cancer is exciting, marking a new era in medical innovation and giving scientists the ability to reprogram a patient’s own body to effectively cure itself.

The therapy, marketed as Kymriah, has demonstrated effectiveness in treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Dr. Gottlieb points out that new technologies such as cell and gene therapies hold the potential to transform the way we treat patients today, creating an inflection point in our ability to treat—and potentially cure—a host of intractable diseases.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is widely regarded as one of the more treatable forms of cancer. Nevertheless, in some patients, traditional cancer therapies have proven ineffective. Physicians often use Kymriah in those cases where other treatments have not shown to be effective.

Dr. Stephan Grupp of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was the first physician at the facility to use Kymriah on a pediatric patient. Since receiving Kymriah, the patient, who had been near death, has now been cancer-free for over five years.

In a survey of 63 patients treated with Kymriah, 83% were found to be in complete remission within three months of treatment. Nevertheless, this new therapy does come with a health warning. It can lead to potentially fatal cytokine release syndrome due to the rapid proliferation of CAR-T cells in the body. The side effect can be controlled with other drugs.

Dr. David Maloney of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center hailed the FDA’s decision to license this new living drug as a major milestone in terms of finding a cure for cancer. He indicated that this breakthrough could potentially pave the way for the development of many new immunotherapy-based treatments targeted to treat a variety of cancers.

Can living drugs cure genetic diseases?

A pill containing millions of live bacteria could prove to be an effective tool in fighting disease. Many hereditary genetic disorders interfere with the processes involved in creating specific proteins, substances that are vital to the body’s ability to grow, develop, and function properly.

One example is phenylketonuria (PKU), a disease caused by the lack of an enzyme necessary for breaking down protein, causing toxic chemicals to accumulate in the blood and leading to permanent brain damage. In many countries, the PKU test forms part of a newborn’s “heel prick” screening, in which blood is collected and analyzed.

PKU was traditionally treated with a special low-protein diet that patients would need to adhere to for the rest of their lives. While this could prove somewhat challenging, researchers from Synlogic, a Massachusetts biotech company, may have found a solution.

In clinical trials, the team introduced therapeutic genes to the guts of PKU patients. Researchers hoped to stimulate the patients’ bodies to begin producing the missing enzyme, effectively correcting the digestive disparity caused by PKU and retraining the patients’ bodies to start breaking down protein.

Until relatively recently, scientific understanding about the role of the trillions of bacteria that reside in the human gut has been fairly limited, but recent studies have revealed millions of different genes present in bacterial genomes, outnumbering our own genes by around 150 to 1. Scientists hope to apply this newfound knowledge to the development of living drugs targeting PKU and other debilitating genetic diseases.

Are living drugs safe?

While living drugs have proven effective at curing disease, particularly acute lymphoblastic leukemia, scientists regard the practice as an experimental treatment and therefore reserve it for those cases where traditional therapies have proven ineffective.

We need much more research into living drugs to gauge their safety and effectiveness.

However, the results revealed so far are extremely encouraging, with many leading scientists believing that the practice could be revolutionary, effectively reprogramming the human body to heal itself on a cellular level—from the inside out.

10 Facts You Need to Know about Bone Marrow Transplants

10 Facts You Need to Know about Bone Marrow Transplants

In the United States today, doctors diagnose a new case of blood cancer approximately every three minutes. For many, their only hope is a bone marrow transplant. We take a look at 10 key facts about bone marrow transplants, from their development to their potential in curing a range of debilitating and life-threatening diseases.  … Continue Reading

The Truth about Antibiotic Resistance: 5 Common Myths Exposed

The Truth about Antibiotic Resistance: 5 Common Myths Exposed

The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming is undoubtedly one of the biggest medical breakthroughs in history. It has saved an estimated 200 million lives to date. Nevertheless, the development of penicillin came with a health warning from Fleming himself. He believed that exposing microbes to non-lethal doses of antibiotics could promote drug resistance. But… Continue Reading

Genomics and the Search for a Cure for Cancer

Genomics and the Search for a Cure for Cancer

Scientists have understood for some time that there is a link between certain genetic permutations and an individual’s susceptibility to cancer. Logically, it therefore follows that one of the keys to curing cancer may lie in tackling the disease at a genetic level. In this article we explore the world of cancer genomics, its success… Continue Reading

What Is the Exome and Why Is It Important to My Health?

What Is the Exome and Why Is It Important to My Health?

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project at the start of the 21st century, scientists are understanding more and more about the link between genes and disease. In this article we explore the exome, its function in the human body, and how the relatively new procedure of exome sequencing could pave the way for… Continue Reading

The Facts You Need to Know about Personalized Medicine

The Facts You Need to Know about Personalized Medicine

What is personalized medicine? How has personalized medicine changed over the years? When will medical professionals integrate personalized medicine into mainstream care? In this article, we explore the world of personalized medicine and its life-saving potential.   Personalized medicine is not a new concept. In fact, the principle dates back to Ancient Greece. The works… Continue Reading

How Are Drugs Developed in the United States?

How Are Drugs Developed in the United States?

The United States possesses the safest and most advanced drug development system in the world. In the following, we explore the standards that pharmaceutical companies have to meet in order to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the release of new drugs, ranging from over-the-counter aspirin to the seasonal flu… Continue Reading

The Rise of Personalized Medicine in the United States: Everything You Need to Know

The Rise of Personalized Medicine in the United States: Everything You Need to Know

A surge of research into personalized medicine marks a tangible shift away from the “one size fits all” approach to treatment. Here we look at what personalized medicine is, some of the key technologies involved, and the potential of personalized medicine in the treatment of serious diseases like cancer.   What is personalized medicine? Also… Continue Reading

What Is the Microbiome and What Can It Tell Me about My Health?

What Is the Microbiome and What Can It Tell Me about My Health?

In this article, we take a look at what the microbiome is and its importance to human health.   What are the human microbiota and microbiome? The human microbiota is the collection of all the microorganisms (microbes) living on and inside the human body; the microbiome refers to the sum total of genetic data contained… Continue Reading

What You Need to Know about the Development of the Seasonal Flu Vaccine

What You Need to Know about the Development of the Seasonal Flu Vaccine

From genome sequencing to tissue engineering, the medical world is constantly evolving. In recent years, significant advancements have been made to combat influenza. Every year, scientists develop a new flu vaccine to combat that season’s strains of the virus. In the following, we examine the process involved in developing flu vaccines. What Is the Process… Continue Reading