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Newly designed viral vectors could lead to improved gene therapies

UNC and University of Florida researchers created viruses to deliver gene therapies while evading pre-existing immune system responses. Aravind Asokan, PhD, led the research team at UNC.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – For many patients, participating in gene therapy clinical trials isn't an option because their immune system recognizes and fights the helpful virus used for treatment. Now, University of Florida Health and University of North Carolina researchers have found a solution that may allow viruses used for gene therapy to evade the body's normal immune response.

Aravind Asokan, PhD
Aravind Asokan, PhD

The discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a crucial step in averting the immune response that prevents many people from taking part in clinical trials for various disorders, according to co-author Mavis Agbandje-McKenna, PhD, a professor in the University of Florida College of Medicine department of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of the Center for Structural Biology.

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Is the finger-stick blood test necessary for type 2 diabetes treatment?

In the first large pragmatic trial of its kind in the United States, results from a UNC School of Medicine study show that checking finger-stick blood sugars may not help diabetes patients who do not use insulin.

Chapel Hill, NC – In a landmark study, UNC School of Medicine researchers have shown that blood glucose testing does not offer a significant advantage in blood sugar control or quality of life for type 2 diabetes patients who are not treated with insulin. The paper, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, details findings from a randomized trial called "The MONITOR Trial." This study is the first large pragmatic study examining glucose monitoring in the United States.

Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic afflicting one in 11 people in the United States. For those treated with insulin, checking blood sugar with a finger stick at home is an accepted practice for monitoring the effects of insulin therapy. However, the majority of type 2 diabetes patients are not treated with insulin. These patients, too, are often recommended glucose monitoring, despite an ongoing debate about its effectiveness in controlling diabetes or improving how patients feel.

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Well Said: HIV research

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is home to some of the world's best HIV research. Numerous teams of researchers are tirelessly investigating the virus, which infects nearly 37 million people around the world.

One of those projects, led by Jenna Bone Honeycutt, has recently lead to a key discovery that could change the way treatments target the virus.

In this week's episode, we're talking about the recent findings with Honeycutt, a postdoctoral research fellow with the UNC School of Medicine.

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Payments linked to higher odds of doctors prescribing certain cancer drugs

In preliminary findings that will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting 2017 in Chicago on Saturday, June 3, researchers show that when physicians had to choose between multiple, on-patent drugs for metastatic kidney cancer and chronic myeloid leukemia, they were more likely to prescribe drugs from companies they had received general payments from.

Physicians paid by pharmaceutical companies for meals, talks and travel had higher odds of prescribing those companies' drugs to treat two cancer types, a University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center-led study has found.

Stacie B. Dusetzina, PhD
Stacie B. Dusetzina, PhD, is a UNC Lineberger member and assistant professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and Gillings School of Global Public Health.

"Ideally, therapy choices should be based on two things, and two things only: medical evidence and patient preference," said Aaron Mitchell, MD, a fellow in the UNC School of Medicine Division of Hematology & Oncology and the study's lead author. "As patient advocates, we should try to eliminate any barriers to this. We saw a pretty consistent increase in prescribing of a company's drug stemming from what we call 'general payments,' which don't go directly for research, but instead are paid to physicians for consulting, meals, travel and lodging for conferences or talks. This raises the possibility that drug companies are able to influence prescribing practices through gifts to physicians."

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