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Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Boston study identifies possible therapy for radiation sickness
Date:11/23/2011

BOSTONA combination of two drugs may alleviate radiation sickness in people who have been exposed to high levels of radiation, even when the therapy is given a day after the exposure occurred, according to a study led by scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital Boston.

Mouse studies of other potential therapies suggest they would be effective in humans only if administered within a few minutes or hours of radiation exposure, making them impractical for use in response to events involving mass casualties. In contrast, the larger time window for administering the two-drug regimen raises the prospect that it could become a mainstay of the response to public health threats such as a nuclear power plant accident or nuclear terror attack.

In a paper published online by the journal Science Translational Medicine, the scientists report the beneficial effects, in mice, of a combination of a fluoroquinolone antibiotic (similar to the commonly used human antibiotic ciprofloxacin, or "Cipro") and a synthetic version of the natural human infection-fighting protein BPI. Mice that received the combination a day after being exposed to high doses of radiation fared far better than mice that received neither or only one of the agents. Whereas radiation exposures of that magnitude almost always prove fatal within a month, 80 percent of the mice that received the two agents were alive and apparently healthy a month into the study.

The study's lead author is Eva Guinan, MD, of Dana-Farber, and the senior author is Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, of Children's Hospital Boston.

The investigators also found that the ability to generate new blood cells which can shut down in the aftermath of radiation exposure rebounded much more quickly and vigorously in the mice treated with fluoroquinolone and rBPI21 (the synthetic version of BPI), potentially contributing to their return to health.

"Both fluoroquinolone a
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Contact: Teresa Herbert
teresa_herbert@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-4090
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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