Friday, December 19, 2008

Can people be vaccinated against high blood pressure? I wrote about two companies that think it's a viable therapy for Nature Biotechnology (subscription only). The vaccine stimulates the body to make antibodies against angiotensin -- a circulating hormone that tightens blood vessels -- and the target of most current antihypertensive medications. Early results in small studies have shown the vaccine to be safe and to have some efficacy. However, the products are up against two hurdles: showing they work better than standard treatments and overcoming physician skittishness about biologic products (as opposed to traditional pharmaceuticals).

One group of doctors who are very comfortable with biologics are rheumatologists. A biologic drug that has offered real hope for people suffering rheumatoid arthritis is infliximab (Remicade®), which is an antibody against an inflammatory mediator called tumor necrosis factor or TNF. I covered the Janssen Award symposium for the New York Academy of Sciences (subscription only) honoring the drug's inventors, Marc Feldmann and Ravinder Maini of Imperial College London. Their first success was reported in 1993 in a small study of 20 patients, whom Maini described described as “train wrecks—severely disabled people who had been through the gamut of therapies with no hope of benefit.”

No comments: