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Monday, 31 January, 2000, 01:00 GMT
Cancer doctors' asthma breakthrough

Asthma sufferer Research may prevent asthmatic reaction


Cancer scientists have made a discovery which could help in the treatment of people with asthma and other allergies.

They have discovered that a new molecule created in a laboratory might block allergic reactions.

Allergic reactions, including asthma, happen when the immune system mistakes harmless particles, such as dust mites, for harmful organisms.



We have made a significant advance in understanding how the body naturally controls asthma and allergic reactions
Dr Craig Rosen, Human Genome Sciences
Scientists already know that some of the symptoms of asthma are caused by a type of blood cell moving out of the blood stream and getting into the lungs.

Once in the lungs, the cells release minute amounts of toxins which can lead to wheeziness and coughing.

In lab tests, the newly-created molecule, called Met-Ckb7 managed to stop the movement of these cells.

US company Human Genome Sciences is now investigating whether it is possible to develop a drug based on Met-Ckb7.

The US company created the molecule, which was then investigated by scientists at the Cancer Research Campaign's Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow.

Significant advance

Dr Craig Rosen, of Human Genome Sciences, said: "We have made a significant advance in understanding how the body naturally controls asthma and allergic reactions."

Beatson scientist Dr Robb Nibbs said: "We had hoped the new molecule would have implications for the development of cancer. So we were very surprised when it turned out to be involved in allergies instead."

His colleague Dr Gerry Graham said the discovery was potentially significant, but had so far only been demonstrated in a test tube.

He said: "It is important to remember that this effect has not been shown in people.

"It is now up to others to see this work through because we will be returning to more familiar territory the study of mechanisms which cause cancer."

Experts believe that around 30% of people in the UK suffer from allergies. Asthma affects between 10-20% of children under 15 and about 5% of adults.

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See also:
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Study 'proves' asthma cause
02 Mar 99 |  Health
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Asthma linked to working conditions
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02 Mar 99 |  Health
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27 Apr 99 |  Health
Asthma 'linked to obesity'

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