Novartis AG Researchers Claim to Have Discovered "Fountain of Youth" Drug
December 29, 2014
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
Researchers with Swiss-based Novartis have published an article with the journal Science Translational Medicine that suggests a new drug may extend life span. The article, titled “mTOR inhibition improves immune function in the elderly,” was published by Joan Mannick and other researchers affiliated with Novartis.
The study specifically looks at an experimental drug, RAD001 (rapamycin), a member of the mTOR inhibitors class of drugs. More than 200 individuals age 65 or older received either the drug or a placebo. They were then given a dose of the flu vaccine. Those who received rapamycin showed 20 percent more antibodies in response to the vaccine.
“It sets the stage for using this drug to target aging, to improve everything about aging,” said Nir Barzilai, head of the Institute for Aging Research at New York City’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in a statement. “That’s really going to be for us a turning point in research, and we are very excited.”
Lead author Mannick is more cautious. “It’s very important to point out that the risk/benefit of MTOR inhibitors should be established in clinical trials before anybody thinks this could be used to treat aging-related conditions,” she said.
The compound interacts with a genetic signaling pathway linked with immune function and aging. So far, mTOR inhibitor drugs have been found to diminish aging and aging-related diseases and disorders in experimental animals.
In addition to increasing immune response to the influenza vaccine, RAD001 decreased the percentage of CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes that express the programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor. This inhibits T cell signaling, and as mammals age, is more highly expressed.
“Aging is the major risk factor for the killers we’re afraid of,” said Barzilai in a statement. “If the aging is the major risk, the way to extend people’s lives and improve their health is to delay aging.”
Novartis has reported earlier successes with related mTOR compounds. In September the company presented the final results of a Phase III trial of Afinitor (everolimus) in patients with well-differentiated advanced and progressive pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (pNET). This was part of the RADIANT-3 (RAD001 In Advanced Neuroendocrine Tumors) trial. mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) inhibition was confirmed in advanced pNET. The results of the study indicated a median overall survival (OS) of 44.02 months in patients receiving everolimus, compared to 37.68 months in those receiving placebo.
“Novartis has more than 25 years of helping to advance NET care and this study, part of the largest global clinical program in NET, emphasizes our commitment to helping fulfill unmet needs for patients living with this disease,” said Alessandro Riva, Global Head, Novartis Oncology Development and Medical Affairs in a statement.