skip navigation nih record
Vol. LXIII, No. 11
May 27, 2011
cover

previous story

next story


Digest

Avastin, Lucentis Found Equally Effective in Treating AMD

Avastin, Lucentis Found Equally Effective in Treating AMD Researchers are reporting results from the first year of a 2-year clinical trial that Avastin, a drug approved to treat some cancers and that is commonly used off-label to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is as effective as the Food and Drug Administration-approved drug Lucentis for the treatment of AMD.

The report, from the Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials (CATT), was published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on May 1. CATT is funded by the National Eye Institute.

“Over 250,000 patients are treated each year for AMD, and a substantial number of them receive Avastin. Given the lack of efficacy data regarding Avastin for AMD treatment, the NEI had an obligation to patients and clinicians to conduct this study,” said Dr. Paul Sieving, director of NEI.

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in older Americans. Many patients are unable to drive, read, recognize faces or perform tasks that require hand-eye coordination.

Genentech, the maker of both drugs, originally developed Avastin to prevent blood vessel growth that enables cancerous tumors to develop and spread. In 2004, the FDA approved Avastin for the systemic treatment of metastatic colon cancer. Genentech later developed Lucentis, derived from a protein similar to Avastin, specifically for injection in the eye to block blood vessel growth in AMD.

Moderate Levels of Secondhand Smoke Deliver Nicotine to the Brain

Exposure to secondhand smoke has a direct, measurable impact on the brain, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Exposure to secondhand smoke has a direct, measurable impact on the brain, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Exposure to secondhand smoke, such as a person can get by riding in an enclosed car while someone else smokes, has a direct, measurable impact on the brain—and the effect is similar to what happens in the brain of the person doing the smoking. In fact, exposure to this secondhand smoke evokes cravings among smokers, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The study, published May 2 in Archives of General Psychiatry, used positron emission tomography to demonstrate that 1 hour of secondhand smoke in an enclosed space results in enough nicotine reaching the brain to bind receptors that are normally targeted by direct exposure to tobacco smoke. This happens in the brain of both smokers and non-smokers.

Previous research has shown that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the likelihood that children will become teenage smokers and makes it more difficult for adult smokers to quit. Such associations suggest that secondhand smoke acts on the brain to promote smoking behavior.

“These results show that even limited secondhand smoke exposure delivers enough nicotine to the brain to alter its function,” said NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow. “Chronic or severe exposure could result in even higher brain nicotine levels, which may explain why secondhand smoke exposure increases vulnerability to nicotine addiction.”

"This study gives concrete evidence to support policies that ban smoking in public places, particularly enclosed spaces and around children,” said Dr. Arthur Brody of the UCLA department of psychiatry & biobehavioral sciences; he was a corresponding author for the article.

Brief Screening Identifies Signs of Autism in 1-Year-Olds

A 5-minute checklist that parents can fill out in pediatrician waiting rooms may someday help in the early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study funded by NIH. Published Apr. 28 in the Journal of Pediatrics, the study’s design also provides a model for developing a network of pediatricians to adopt such a change to their practice.

“Beyond this exciting proof of concept, such a screening program would answer parents’ concerns about their child’s possible ASD symptoms earlier and with more confidence than has ever been done before,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Identifying autism at an early age allows children to start treatment sooner, which can greatly improve their later development and learning. However, many studies show a significant delay between the time parents first report concerns about their child’s behavior and the eventual ASD diagnosis, with some children not receiving a diagnosis until well after they’ve started school.

The questionnaire asks caregivers about a child’s use of eye gaze, sounds, words, gestures, objects and other forms of age-appropriate communication.


back to top of page