This Week in Medicine 22 – 28 January 2018



1) FDA approved Lutathera, a new radioactive drug to treat certain digestive tract cancers

Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate), is now the first radioactive drug to be approved by the FDA for treating of a type of cancer that affects the pancreas or gastrointestinal tract called gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs). Lutathera works by binding to a part of a cell called a somatostatin receptor, which may be present on certain tumors. After binding, it then enters the cell allowing radiation to cause damage to the tumor cells.

Ref: The approval of Lutathera was supported by two studies here and here.

2) Taking antithyroid drugs during the first trimester of pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for birth defects

A large study in South Korea found that taking antithyroid drugs during the first trimester of pregnancy was associated with a greater risk of congenital malformations, especially for women who were given the drugs methimazole or methimazole in combination with propylthiouracil.


3) Aerobic exercise mays be more effective than other types of exercise in delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s

A team of researchers analysed 19 prior studies that examined the effect of an exercise on cognitive function in older adults at risk for, or diagnosed with, Alzheimer’s. They found that people who did aerobic exercise showed a three times greater level of improvement in cognitive function than those who participated in combined aerobic training and strength training exercises. However, they also found that people who exercised showed small improvements in cognitive function no matter what type of exercise they did, while people in the no-exercise control groups in the studies faced declines in cognitive function.


4) Solanezumab, an Alzheimer’s drug, falls short in a large clinical trial

In a Phase 3 trial involving 2,129 patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease, it was found that Solanezumab did not significantly reduce cognitive decline over time. The trial patients were given either Solanezumab (400mg; 1,057 patients) or placebo (1,072 patients) intravenously every four weeks for 76 weeks.


5) A tiny implantable device was developed to deliver medication to very specific areas of the brain

Research published in Science Translational Medicine describes an implantable device that can deliver tiny doses of medicine to specific regions deep within the brain. Although it has only been tested in animal models at this point, it is potentially a game-changer in the future, as it allows the treatment of diseases that affect specific brain circuits with better precision- without side effects on the rest of the brain.


6) Researchers developed new smart contact lenses that can monitor glucose in tears – it addresses problems with earlier designs 

Researchers have developed soft contact lenses with a glucose monitor embedded to measure glucose in tears. The data is then transmitted wirelessly to a handheld device. The lenses are soft and stretchable, overcoming problems with earlier designs. The device has only been tested on animals- no signs of discomfort have been observed.


About Rina Soetanto

Rina Soetanto is currently doing her PhD in molecular biology. She also has an extensive background in pharmacology and pre-clinical cancer research, as well as an undergraduate science degree from the Australian National University with a double major in neuroscience and immunology.

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