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Experimental Drug Melts The Fat Off Chunky Monkeys

Fat monkeys, rejoice!

An experimental drug that zeroes in on the blood vessels that feed fatty tissue helped obese monkeys lose quite a bit of weight in a study done by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Great for monkeys, sure. But maybe great for you, too.

Here's why. Some diet drugs that work well in rodents don't pan out when it comes time to try them in primates, including us. This drug, called adipotide, seeks out the particular blood vessels that fatty tissue needs for nourishment, then causes cells in those vessels to die.

Deprived of a blood supply, the fatty deposits shrivel up.

Ten monkeys treated in the latest study, whose results were just published in Science Translational Medicine, lost an average of 11 percent of their body weight over a month of treatment. The most weight lost by any of the five monkeys in the placebo group was 1 percent.

On the safety side, the drug was pretty well tolerated but did show some side effects in the kidneys. Those were mild and got better on their own once treatment stopped.

The drug, given by injection, isn't going to be on pharmacy shelves anytime soon. But it has now been seen to work in five different species — from mice to monkeys.

The M.D. Anderson team is getting ready to try the drug in overweight men with prostate cancer to determine if drug-induced weight loss improves their cancers.

Ablaris Therapeutics, a unit of Arrowhead Research Corp., has the rights to the drug. M.D. Anderson and key members of the research team have a financial interest in Ablaris.

For more on the research, see this M.D. Anderson video.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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