Thursday, December 6, 2012
Gene Test for Super-Responders to Copaxone a guest post by Heather Green
Gene Test for Super-Responders to Copaxone Earlier this year, American Academy of Neurology researchers announced plans to perform genetic tests among multiple sclerosis sufferers to determine—with 90 percent accuracy—patient response to glatiramer acetate, or Copaxone. This test would help clinicians more easily and quickly decide the drug of choice for each patient. Geneticist Fabio Macciardi of the University of California, Irving, and his team examined DNA samples from 599 patients from a Phase III trial funded by Teva, the pharmaceutical company responsible for Copaxone. Gene test for super-responders For the study, a DNA chip capable of assessing which nucleotide resides where in the genome was used to detect 31 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). It is these SNPs that showed measurable relation to Copaxone response in extreme-responders. One SNP can tentatively predict if the drug would reduce relapse frequency, but a combination of six SNPs gave Macciardi’s team the weight they were looking for to further future research. Just one of the 31 SNPs associated with Copaxone-response is among the 60-plus genes supposedly determining the risk of developing MS, but Macciardi assures us that the research remains in its infancy. We’ll have to wait for confirming studies. Big Pharma’s financial ties In the meantime, it’s worth considering that Teva itself funded the research, which, given that its product was the one in question, is logical. Still, it’s not unlike having the wolf guard the hen house. Many pharmaceutical companies have no qualms about bribing doctors—like the celebrity Dr. Drew—to push and promote off-label use of drugs. Investigations also revealed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies among 70 percent of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) panelists, who have listed in the newest DSM edition situations like the loss of a loved one and frequent temper tantrums in children as being cause for psychiatric disorders. Natural alternatives Although pharmaceuticals can relieve painful symptoms and be used responsibly to treat serious conditions, our overreliance on them is becoming ever clearer. Dr. Andrew Weil advocates experimenting with natural solutions, if not without pharmaceutical aid then in conjunction with it and your physician’s notice. Try: • Decreasing or eliminating dairy products and finding other calcium sources • Decreasing or eliminating polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, and all foods (like deep-fried foods) with trans-fats. Use olive oil and coconut oil (a great butter substitute) instead. • Increase omega 3 fatty acid intake from either low-mercury fish or walnuts, flax seeds, and hemp seeds. • Drink ginger and turmeric tea—both are great for digestion and inflammation and have far-reaching health benefits that may extend to MS symptom relief and healing. • Take a daily probiotic to ensure digestive health, which affects neurological health, too. • Eat lots of organically grown fruits and vegetables to avoid pesticide residue, which has been attributed to neurological and autoimmune diseases. A UK and Canadian research team also recently found that vitamin D can help control a gene that increases MS risk. This is not the first study on the matter and will likely not be the last, but it wouldn’t hurt to spend some extra time in the sun—without sunscreen. To get your daily dose of vitamin D—but prevent sunburn and skin cancer—spend about 30 minutes in the noonday sun daily. Time and skin exposure will differ according to pigmentation, season, and geographical location. Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about online rn programs.