Category: Medical News

If you’ve spent much time around orthopedics, tendon injuries are a way of life. Tears and strains affect individuals from all walks of life creating a continual push for new a better treatments. In recent years there has been a substantial murmur surrounding platelet-rich plasma therapy as a potential treatment of the injuries. While innovation is always exciting there appears to be some conflicting data coming back.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy or PRP is centered around the idea that growth factors from platelets will increase tissue healing. Tendons in particular are less vascularized and tend to heal slower than many other tissues of the body. The idea has been to use PRP to aid with partial tears, strains, and chronic tendinitis. It’s currently experimental but garnered press last year when two members of the Pittsburgh Steelers received PRP treatment prior to winning the Super Bowl. The original story in the February 16, 2009 edition of the New York Times cited some promising studies, but studies in recent months are bring the treatment into question.

In 2006 a study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine outlined a study of 20 patients, 15 of which received PRP therapy. The patients receiving PRP noted a pain measurement improvement of 60% compared to 16% in the control group. However according to a March 19th 2009 article available on PubMed that used MRI’s to track postoperative healing after ACL surgery showed no difference between patients receiving PRP treatment and those receiving none. Additionally a recent article in the January 13th 2010 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association concerning the treatment of chronic Achilles tendon disorder found no measurable difference when compared with a placebo saline injection.

The disparity between studies would appear to indicate that further trials are needed before a conclusion can be reached as to the effectiveness of PRP in treating tendon related injuries.

Articles referenced

New York Times February 16, 2009 article

PubMed March 14, 2009

Medscape January 12, 2010


Anyone reading  medical research headlines in recent years has become aware of how charged the topic of gene therapy is. Recent clinical results treating certain types of blindness and adrenoleukodystrophy may leave people re-examining some of their thoughts and positions.

Leber’s congenital amaurosis is an inherited eye disease that appears shortly after birth. It’s caused by a recessive gene called RPE65 that controls production of an enzyme that recycles retinol. The result is sluggish pupil response with blindness or severe vision loss which until recently, doctors have been unable to treat. Doctors at both Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and London’s Moorfield Eye Hospital have had substantial success treating this disease with gene therapy. The physicians surgically deliver modified adeno-associated virus (AAV) prepared by a Seattle company called Targeted Genetics behind the retina. AAV can affect both dividing and non-dividing cells with in the body and begins recoding the DNA for proper formation of the enzyme. One of the keys seems to be treating it at a young age, but the results of these trials particularly in the Philadelphia study are astonishing, and appear to be free of side effects according to Moorfield’s article in April 2008 New England Journal of Medicine article. Pretty astonishing.

The astonishing advancements don’t just stop there. Adrenoleukodystrophy, the subject of the 1992 film Lorenzo’s Oil, is another inherited disease. Instead of blindness adrenoleukodystrophy leads to progressive brain damage and death. Sufferers of adrenoleukodystrophy fail to transport a necessary enzyme for breaking down very-long chain fatty acids to where it’s needed. The eventual build up leads to damage of the adrenal glands and an inability of the body to myelinate nerves, leaving them unable to conduct impulses. The November 2009 publication of Science magazine has published the results of a French study in which two children with adrenoleukodystrophy have been successfully treated using gene therapy.

While both of these studies are in clinical trials and not yet available to the public they do offer hope of exciting advances in the near future. Additional studies not yet in clinical trials such as the University of Washington’s success in producing color vision in squirrel monkeys or the successful growth of bigger, stronger muscles in monkeys at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in  Columbus will undoubtedly lead research relating to color blindness of muscular dystrophy. Either way, the results of gene therapy are beginning to bear some of the fruits long talked about in the years of debates.

Moorfield Eye Hospital Information

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Adrenoleukodystrophy Article

University of Washing Color Blindness Treatment

There’s something new in the air for people trying to quit cigarettes and it’s not the smell of smoke. In case you haven’t read about it yet, Nabi Biopharmaceuticals is currently running their nicotine vaccine NicVax through the paces of the FDA’s phase three clinical trials. NicVax is surrounded by an understandable excitement and fervor, but what are the facts?

First it’s important to outline what NicVax is not. It’s not a cure for the rigors connected with the fight to quite smoking or a guarantee that one will be successful at stopping. NicVax is intended to be an aide to smoking cessation and the clinical trial numbers on Nabi’s site appear to indicate just that. Of the test subjects with a high antibody response 16% showed significant abstinence at twelve months versus 6% in those that received a placebo. While 16% may not be the results recovering smokers where hoping for, the odds of success are substantially greater than without. So how does it work?

NicVax works on a similar philosophy to most vaccines but there are some important differences. Upon injection into the bloodstream NicVax triggers the immune system to begin producing antibodies that specifically bind to nicotine molecules. The binding of the antibodies with nicotine creates a particle too large to cross the blood-brain barrier thereby inhibiting the trigged release of stimulants like dopamine. While many of the vaccines the public is accustomed to require only a single dose, NicVax requires four. Additionally the life expectancy of the vaccination is roughly a year.

Again, even though these results and statistics many not be the golden ticket people hoped for, they are a compelling improvement over current alternatives. Moreover, time may give Nabi the opportunity to fine tune dosages and further improve results. In any case, there are definitely more than a few people eager for FDA approval.

by Ward Sieben

NicVax Clinical results

Let me start by saying that the clinical statistics and information on the product discussed in this post is available either on the Seattle Genetics site or  US government clinical trail website. Now that that’s out of the way let’s get on to the good stuff.

I’m a nerd. As much as I might strive to prove otherwise through various endeavors of machismo, or engaging in melodramatic altercations with that middle aged guy in the mirror, I’m still a nerd. Don’t get me wrong, you want to strap on a parachute and jump out of a plane or barrel down the mountain on a pair of skis and I’m your’re man. I just also happen t0 periodically read biochem books for fun and dream up half crocked laboratory experiments to pitch at the head of state university’s biosciences department. Yep, I’m a geek.  As a result, I have a tendency to strike up some unusual conversations and get excited about some pretty obscure things, hence the subject matter for this post.

Roughly a year ago in one of my habitual bouts of networking I made the acquaintance of the owner of a clinical trails oversight company. He’s a really awesome guy and unfortunately for him, our occasional morning coffees provide a great excuse for me to indulge my internal dweeb. I of course salivate over the chance to explore the mechanism of action on the latest pharmaceutical concoction, which lead to a conversation about Seattle Genetics and some of their upcoming cancer treatment drugs. Our discussion of Seattle Genetics began over year ago. At that point my friend had been monitoring their trails for some time and was stunned by the results. Right now they’re either preparing to or have begun stage three trials for at least one drug, which means things could hit the market in a couple of years. There have been almost no adverse reactions, especially in comparison to standard chemotherapy, and according to the conversations we’ve have had, the remission levels are astounding. Here’s the skinny on how it works.

Seattle Genetics has created what’s know as an antibody-drug conjugates or ADC. There are essentially two parts to it. The first, known as the antibody portion bonds with a structure that is unique to the surface of lymphoma cells. It could be described as a lock and key situation where this key only fits a lock exclusive to lymphoma cells. When the antibody portion comes in contact with that specific structure, called a glycoprotein, it bonds with it and causes the cell to absorb it. Outside of the cell the second part of the system known as the drug payload, is inactive. Once it’s absorb inside the cell, the cell attempts to digest in and in turn activates the drug payload. As soon as it’s activated the drug payload kills and destroys the lymphoma cell. In essence what Seattle Genetics appears to have designed is a drug which targets and kills ONLY lymphoma cells. It’s a brilliant piece of bioengineering and could prove to be monumental if it continues to deliver the results communicated thus far.

While this blog’s primary theme is general sales skills, its secondary motif is to relate to medical and pharma. As an effective sales person you always have to keep an ear close to the ground for changes coming within your industry and this one could have huge ramifications for the oncology market. Information like this is helpful in structuring and setting longer term goals and I hope it help some of you medical folks. On the flip side, if any other overly science minded individuals happen to come across this post, I hope you enjoy the elegance of this drug as much as I did. Thanks for reading.


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