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New anti-inflammatory drugs might help avoid side effects of steroids
Date:10/25/2011

A new class of anti-inflammatory drugs may one day serve as an alternative to steroid medications and possibly help avoid the serious side effects of steroids, based on research findings at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

The scientists, led by Inder M. Verma, a professor in Salk's Laboratory of Genetics and Ronald M. Evans, the director of Salk's Gene Expression laboratory, discovered that a protein that defends the body against cancer also plays a key role in the anti-inflammatory action of steroids. Targeting this protein might lead to new drugs that could replace or augment steroid treatment.

"Steroids are the most potent anti-inflammatories available, but they can cause serious side effects," says Verma, Salk's American Cancer Society Professor of Molecular Biology. "We may have found a way to get around these limitations by reducing inflammation without steroids. Our findings also suggest that certain cancer patients don't respond to steroid treatment, so they might be taking the drugs needlessly."

In a paper on the research, published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Verma, Evans and their colleagues report that p53, a protein best known for suppressing cancer tumors, is also key to the anti-inflammatory action of glucocorticoids, a class of steroid drugs.

Glucocorticoids play a role in the human immune system, and glucocorticoid drugs are often used to treat disorders where the immune system is overactive, such as allergies, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also used to treat inflammation caused by cancer tumors.

Glucocorticoid drugs work by suppressing the production of cytokines, immune system signaling molecules that help initiate the body's first response to threats from infection by bacteria and viruses.

Normally, cytokines tell the body to increased blood flow and sensitized nerves, among other reactions, which helps fight
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Contact: Andy Hoang
Ahoang@salk.edu
619-861-5811
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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