October 30, 2009
NIH Podcast Episode #0096
Balintfy: Welcome to episode 96 of NIH Research Radio with news about the ongoing medical research at the National Institutes of Health--the nation's medical research agency. I'm your host Joe Balintfy. Coming up in this episode an interview with the new NIH Director. Also, an historic perspective from nearly 70 years ago. But first a cocaine vaccine shows promise for treating addiction. That's next on NIH Research Radio.
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Cocaine Vaccine Shows Promise for Treating Addiction
Balintfy: Immunization with an experimental anti-cocaine vaccine resulted in a substantial reduction in cocaine use in 38 percent of vaccinated patients in a clinical trial. The trial, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is the first successful, placebo-controlled demonstration of a vaccine against an illicit drug of abuse. Wally Akinso brings us the story.
Akinso: A cocaine vaccine shows promise for treating addiction according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse study.
Dr. Volkow: This is a very exciting finding.
Akinso: Dr. Nora Volkow is the Director of the institute.
Dr. Volkow: This study evaluated whether there were differences in cocaine abuse among individuals that had a history of cocaine abuse that were treated with a vaccine to develop antibodies against the cocaine versus those that were not given the vaccine.
Akinso: Immunization with an experimental anti-cocaine vaccine resulted in a substantial reduction in cocaine use in 38 percent of vaccinated patients in a clinical trial supported by NIDA. Dr. Volkow explains the findings.
Dr. Volkow: What the study reports is that those individuals that have been vaccinated, in whom there were a formation of antibodies against cocaine, there was significant decrease in the amount of cocaine utilized, documented indeed that immunotherapy, active immunization in this case, for the treatment of cocaine addiction, is a strategy that has promise in the handling in this disorder.
Akinso: This study included 115 patients from a methadone maintenance program who were randomly assigned to receive an anti-cocaine vaccine or a placebo, which is an inactive vaccine. Participants in both groups received five vaccinations over a 12-week period and were followed for an additional 12 weeks. All participants also took part in weekly relapse-prevention therapy sessions with a trained substance abuse counselor, had their blood tested for antibodies to cocaine, and had their urine tested three times a week for the presence of opioids and cocaine. Dr. Volkow says the results of the study represent a promising step toward an effective medical treatment for cocaine and other drug addictions.
Dr. Volkow: This for us is a major breakthrough because if offers what could be potentially a transformative way of treating, not just cocaine addictions, but a wide variety of drug addictions.
Akinso: Dr. Volkow says although the study is promising, immunization did not achieve complete abstinence from cocaine use in this study. She added that previous research has shown, that a reduction in use is associated with a significant improvement in cocaine abusers’ social functioning and thus is therapeutically meaningful. For more information on this study, visit www.drugabuse.gov. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland.
New NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins
Balintfy: Dr. Francis Collins became the 16th director of the National Institutes of Health this past August. He was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 8, and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 7. Recently, NIH Research Radio had the chance to chat with Dr. Collins about his new role here, and an award he recently received. We started by asking, what he thinks is most important that people across the country should know about NIH . . .
Dr. Collins: Most of the American public doesn’t know that NIH exists, so it would be a good start to try to get the National Institutes of Health and its mission a bit more on the visible scale for people out there who are, for the most part, concerned about health, their own, their families’, and wondering, is a better day coming in terms of the ability to prevent and treat disease?
So I guess that would be the main thing to try to get across, that we at NIH are poised at a unique time in history scientifically to provide answers to questions that have been vexing, and to provide ultimately ways to prevent illnesses that currently shorten lives or create chronic disabilities. We we have a lot to offer, perhaps in many ways more than any other investment you can think of. People are concerned about their health, and we are the major supporter of biomedical research in this country, and, in fact, in the world.
Balintfy: What is it that NIH does that affects people most across the country?
Dr. Collins: Practically every day, if you open the newspaper, you will see some new discovery that gets us closer to a circumstance where people’s lives will be much more certain to go forward without being struck by disease. Most of those findings have been supported by the National Institutes of Health. The opportunities now to try to go in a more comprehensive way to sorting out the causes of disease have never been better, and so as people are hoping for a better day, and especially if they’re sort of aware of their own vulnerabilities or that of their family, we may be the best beacon of hope they’ve got.
Balintfy: So Dr. Collins, if a family has a vulnerability like heart disease or diabetes, or has questions about something like the new H1N1 virus, how would you explain NIH as a resource?
Dr. Collins: Well, NIH is a big place with a lot of smart people. Its mission goes all the way from the most fundamental efforts to understand how life works to clinical trials to test the latest therapies that may be the next breakthrough in treating cancer or diabetes and everything in between, so it’s an enormously complex network of researchers all over the country, all over the world, because we support also some projects outside the U.S., and all held together by the ethic of doing rigorous research, publishing that data as quickly as possible so that others can benefit from it, and doing everything we can to make sure those results get transmitted out to the practice of medicine and implemented as quickly as possible.
Take the H1N1 anxieties that are understandably all around us with this particular pandemic of influenza. It was NIH that ran those clinical trials on the new vaccine to tell us that one dose will be sufficient for anybody except kids under 10, and to know that that will provide appropriate immunity, and to show that that vaccine both seems to be effective but it seems to be safe, and this may be the data most needed now to prevent what otherwise could be tens of thousands of deaths from this pandemic in the United States alone.
Balintfy: So Dr. Collins, shifting gears here a little, you recently receive the National Medal of Science. Would you care to comment on that?
Dr. Collins: I was enormously honored to go to the White House and receive the National Medal of Science along with about a dozen other scientists across many different disciplines. This is the highest honor given to a scientist in the United States by the government, and so it was pretty amazing to be chosen for that and to have the medal placed around my neck by the president himself. The president is clearly somebody who is very much in tune with what science has to offer for many of the problems that our nation and our world face, and he spoke quite eloquently during the course of that ceremony about his views of science and the hopes that he has for it to come forth and save us from some of our troubles. You can go and listen to that speech. It’s up on a video at whitehouse.gov, and see what I mean. But I was both enormously honored to be there, but also entirely aware that I’m there representing hundreds, thousands of other scientists who worked with me on the human genome project, which was one of the main reasons for this recognition, and it is their work that really made this all possible.
Balintfy: Thank you very much Dr. Collins. Anything else you’d like to add?
Dr. Collins: Coming to this job, I felt enormously honored to be asked to lead this organization with all of its promise. But it also carries a very heavy responsibility. I have learned, however, that I have a lot of help, that there are talented, dedicated scientists, both here at NIH and all over the country, that are fully committed to the same goals, the same mission of applying the very best science to try to figure out how to prevent and treat disease. And I have high hopes that that is going pay off. Some of those benefits will take longer than others, but I think we’re on a roll, and I think this is going to be one of the most exciting times in biomedical research ever.
Balintfy: Thanks again Dr. Francis Collins, the 16th director of the National Institutes of Health. For more information on Dr. Collins visit the NIH website at www.nih.gov. And when we come back, some archival audio from President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he dedicated the NIH campus back in 1940. Stay tuned.
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FDR Dedication Anniversary
Balintfy: President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland on October 31, 1940. The event was held to celebrate NIH's historic move from one building in Washington, D.C. to its new campus setting on 45 acres of land. Things look much different now with more than 75 buildings on some 300 acres, but the message heard from President Roosevelt is in many ways still timely today—President Barak Obama quoted President Roosevelt from this address when he was here at NIH not long ago. So here are a few excerpts from President Roosevelt’s speech on the steps of Building 1 here in Bethesda, Maryland some 69 years ago . . .
Roosevelt: Ladies and gentlemen, nowhere in the world except in the Americas is it possible for any nation to devote a great sector of its effort to life conservation rather than to life destruction.
All of us are grateful that we in the United States can still turn our thoughts and our attention to those institutions of our country that symbolize peace—institutions whose purpose it is to save life and not to destroy it. It is for the dedication of these noble buildings to the service of man that we are assembled here today.
The National Institute of Health speaks the universal language of humanitarianism. It has been devoted throughout its long and distinguished history to furthering the health of all mankind, in which service it has recognized no limitations imposed by international boundaries; and has recognized no distinctions of race, creed or color.
. . . For we cannot be a strong nation unless we are a healthy nation. And so we must recruit not only men and materials but also knowledge and science in the service of national strength. And that is what we are doing here.
. . . Since the passage of the famous Social Security Act with' its health provisions in 1935, Federal, State and local health and medicine are cooperating more broadly than ever before.
Our people are better informed on health matters than ever before.
Scientific knowledge of the causes of disease and also the conditions for health has exceeded any previous limits.
Facilities for health and medical service are more numerous and they are better.
. . . These buildings, which we dedicate, represent new and improved housing for an institution that has a long and distinguished background of accomplishment in this task of research. The original demonstration of the cause and method of preventing pellagra, for example, has been followed by other important contributions. Great work has been done in the control of tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, typhus fever, yellow fever, malaria, and psittacosis.
Now that we are less than a day by plane from the jungle type yellow fever of South America, less than two days from the sleeping sickness of equatorial Africa, less than three days from cholera and bubonic plague, the ramparts we watch must be civilian in addition to being military.
. . . Today the need for the conservation of health and physical fitness is greater than at any time in the nation's history. In dedicating this Institute, I dedicate it to the underlying philosophy of public health; to the conservation of life; to the wise use of the vital resources of the nation.
I voice for America, and for the stricken world, our hopes, our prayers, our faith in the power of man's humanity to man.
Balintfy: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 31, 1940 here at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s it for this episode of NIH Research Radio. Please join us again on Friday, November 13 when our next edition will be available for download. I'm your host, Joe Balintfy. Thanks for listening.
NIH Research Radio is a presentation of the NIH Radio News Service, part of the News Media Branch, Office of Communications and Public Liaison in the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.