On September 14, 2004, in Diagnostics

A new technology to count cancer cells
in the bloodstream
gives earlier warning of metastasis and enables treatment
regimens to be more effectively monitored and modified to fit the individual
patient�s condition. Such tailoring to suit the individual has taken a
significant step foreward with the development of a genetics-based test for
cancer patients� individual
to drug therapies.

Our ability to see the structure of animal biomolecules plus our ability to
manipulate (bioengineer) molecular structures could lead to significant advances
in drug therapies. A shark antibody is
one such molecule showing great promise as both a diagnostic and therapeutic
agent. We will be surprised if, three years from now, those structures are not
routinely viewed on inexpensive, true
3-D computer monitors
. The technology is advancing and increasingly adopted
by content producers.

Blood Test for Cancer to Lead to Personalized
Treatment Regimens

�Cells of a tumor sometimes break off and circulate in the blood. When those
nomadic cells find a new home and start to grow�a process known as
metastasis�cancers become much harder to treat,� writes Reuters� Gene Emery. A
new technology�the CellSearch System�counts cancer cells in the blood,
and appears to allow doctors to determine within weeks whether a breast cancer
patient�s treatment is working. It could lead to individualized treatment
regimens and �spare some women from the most potent chemotherapy or recognize
which patients need more aggressive therapy at the start of treatment.�

The system has only been tested on breast cancer that had spread, and further
research will be needed to see if it helps against less aggressive breast cancer
or other types of tumors where cancer cells are less likely to be shed into the

While a test is expected to cost $300 to $400, an editorial in the New
England Journal of Medicine
predicts that �the CellSearch technique will
become widespread and thereby improve care for patients with metastatic breast
cancer,� writes Emery. CellSearch was tested on 177 volunteers with
advanced breast cancer at 20 locations in the United States.

Reference: Emery, Gene (2004). �Blood
Test Better Predicts Cancer Treatment Outcomes
.� Reuters via Yahoo News,
August 18.

Step Forward for Personalized Medicine

Another step has been taken in the direction of personalized medicine with
the market introduction of Genoptix�s genetics-based chemotherapeutic response
test for chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients. �The test can show whether
expensive and promising chemotherapy drugs, such as Rituxan or
Gleevec, will work on a specific patient, or whether a doctor should
instead prescribe another, less expensive course of treatment,� writes Terri
Somers in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The value of such a test lies not only in helping identify a treatment that
works, but also in avoiding one that not only does not work but which may even
exacerbate the patient�s illness and cause earlier death than would have
occurred with no treatment at all.

The test is effective on the very small cell samples retrieved through a
fine-needle biopsy. The company says insurers are covering the test for up to
seven drugs on a sample, though it can test for 21 drugs. Many current customers
are oncologists who use the test only after unsuccessfully trying various
treatments, but the company wants doctors to use the test before determining a
treatment plan. It also wants drug companies to use its tests in clinical trials
to identify groups of patients that should be receptive to a drug candidate.

Reference: Somers, Terri (2004). �A
crystal ball for cancer treatment? Test aims to help determine best drug
.� San Diego Union-Tribune, August 4.

Diapeutics from Shark Antibodies

US researchers have discovered that the IgNAR antibody in sharks, that
recognizes and binds to foreign molecules such as those from invading bacteria
or viruses, is much simpler and more flexible than its typical mammalian
counterpart. The molecules� small size and unique structural features not only
make them �probably indestructible,� as one researcher told Technology
�s Erika Jonietz, but also demonstrate a much simpler way to
bioengineer small antibody fragments for therapeutic use. Several recent cancer
drugs, notes Jonietz, are antibodies.

IgNAR�s toughness and long life (compared to other antibodies) suits them
well for use in field diagnostics to identify diseases or bioterror substances,
and for use in protein therapeutics, which tend to degrade quickly inside the
body and must be administered fairly often. There are also indications that
IgNAR could make more effective drugs.

Reference: Jonietz, Erika (2004). �A
Healthy Shark Attack: Researchers look to the shark�s primitive immune system
for better diagnostics and drugs
.� Technology Review, August 20.


http://www.healthfuturesdigest.com/200309/p4.html#laptopSharp has introduced Monday a US$1,499, 15-inch, 3-D, flat-panel, LCD monitor
which, like a laptop computer model they introduced last year, does not require
the use of special glasses. 3-D displays have been made for the medical and
scientific industries, but this one also targets consumers. The monitor can show
images created in 3-D, and can also create the illusion of 3-D in 2-D images.

A growing number of video games are being made for 3-D, and software programs
are available that allow users to turn 2-D DVD movies and photos into 3-D.
Meanwhile, the leading graphics chip manufacturers are developing products that
support 3-D. Sony and Sanyo are creating 3-D applications and Toshiba is also
developing a 3-D display technology.

Reference: Wong, May (2004). �Sharp
Introduces 3-D Computer Display
.� Associated Press via Yahoo News, August 9.


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