HEALTH

Cancer center may have found link between GIST, targeted therapy

BY Michael Johnsen

ORLANDO, Fla. Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center uncovered a genetic pattern that may help predict how gastrointestinal stromal tumor patients respond to the targeted therapy Gleevec (imatinib mesylate). Moreover, their findings point to genes that could be suppressed in order to make these tumors respond more readily to imatinib.

“Imatinib has been the first drug that has really made a dent in GIST progression – up to 80% response – yet some GIST patients have little or no response to the drug,” commented Lori Rink, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Andrew Godwin at Fox Chase. “We are looking to see how we can help clinicians make better decisions in applying imatinib or additional therapies to their GIST patients,” she said. “Our data indicate that if we can alter the activity of some of these KRAB-zinc finger proteins, we may be able to enhance the effectiveness of imatinib therapy.”

Rink presented their findings at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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Herbal supplement industry sees sales increase for 2008

BY Michael Johnsen

AUSTIN, Texas Herbal dietary supplement sales in the United States increased slightly in 2008, reaching a total estimated figure of $4.8 billion, according to a recent report published in the quarterly journal HerbalGram, the American Botanical Council announced Friday.

“Many people believe that herb sales may be somewhat recession-proof,” stated Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC, editor of HerbalGram, and one of the authors of the herb market report. “It is highly likely — and the sales data support this — that many consumers, particularly those without health insurance to cover costs of conventional medicines, may be purchasing herbal supplements to help manage some of their health needs.”

The top-selling herbal singles of 2008 in the food, drug and mass market channel, according to IRI, are cranberry, soy, garlic, saw palmetto and ginkgo biloba. The five top-selling single herbal supplements of 2008 in the health and natural food channel, according to SPINS, were flaxseed oil, wheat grass and barley grass, stevia, aloe vera and milk thistle. These rankings do not include combinations containing multiple herbs.

“There is vast opportunity for innovative herbal products to move outside the category and into the food and beverage universe with the potential of attracting new shopper segments,” commented Mary Ellen Lynch, SPINS director of consumer insights and a co-author of the herb market report. “For example, the antioxidant turmeric, which continues to grow in the natural channel, has this potential due to its link to multiple health benefits, including cardiovascular/liver/brain health, that align well to the mainstream consumer’s growing interest in health and wellness.”

The sales figure is based on data from multiple market research firms — including Information Resources, Inc., the Nutrition Business Journal and SPINS — and found that total herb supplement sales rose by nearly 1% over 2007 sales.

In mass markets, sales of herbal supplements increased more than 7.2% to $289.2 million in 2008, ABC noted, citing IRI year-end data. In the natural and health food channel, herbal supplement sales totaled $329.1 million, according to SPINS data.

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Atherotech to roll out new cholesterol test

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Atherotech and specialty retailer Any Lab Test Now last week announced the roll out of Atherotech’s VAP Cholesterol Test direct to consumers.

“We are excited to bring the VAP Test directly to consumers at such an attractive price point because it empowers them to manage their own health, gain more insight in their cardiovascular health and provide their health care provider with more information to accurately treat and manage their health,” stated Joe Neely, CEO Any Lab Test Now.

The VAP Cholesterol Test is an expanded cholesterol profile that identifies people at risk and is the first cholesterol test to directly measure LDL.

“Any Lab Test Now is a good fit for the VAP Test as it allows a growing population more access at an affordable price,” added Atherotech president Michael Mullen. “Our test gives people an opportunity to mitigate their risks that might have otherwise gone undetected.”

As part of the partnership, Any Lab Test Now will offer the VAP test individually for $79 and also include it as part of two value panels — the Metabolic Syndrome Panel ($229) and the Heart Health Panel ($279).

Founded in 1992, Any Lab Test Now is a franchise lab testing facility that provides medical lab tests to consumers and employers in a retail setting.

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