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Cancer drug may be remedy for rheumatoid arthritis, Stanford study finds

STANFORD, Calif. -- The potent cancer drug Gleevec, used to combat leukemia and some gastrointestinal cancers, may be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, according to a team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Their findings will be published in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Although the study shows that Gleevec worked well in mice, the researchers cautioned against doctors using Gleevec for treating rheumatoid arthritis until clinical trials are completed demonstrating its effectiveness and safety for people with the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful, chronic autoimmune disorder, characterized by inflammation of the lining of the joints. It affects more than 2 million Americans; up to half of those with the disease are disabled after 15 years due to disfigured joints. Standard therapy for rheumatoid arthritis now includes agents that suppress the immune system, but many patients do not benefit from such treatments. They do not get adequate reduction in the symptoms and signs of disease; they may also continue to have damage to their joints or develop side effects that make continued use of such therapies impossible. Thus, new approaches are needed.

Bill Robinson, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and the study's senior author, led a team that set out to find drugs that might provide additional benefit to rheumatoid arthritis patients. They screened a range of drugs in mice that have a condition similar to human rheumatoid arthritis.

Ricardo Paniagua, an MD/PhD student and the study's first author, explained that they looked at every drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, considering which ones might modulate the immune system and thus be effective in combating an autoimmune condition, regardless of the drug's FDA-approved use. Paniagua chose several drugs to test, including an antihistamine, a platelet modulator and other approved
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Contact: Mitzi Baker
mabaker@stanford.edu
650-725-2106
Stanford University Medical Center
28-Sep-2006


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