Prof Tony Pinching to stand down as Action for M.E.’s Principal Medical Advisor


Action for M.E. has announced that Professor Tony Pinching is due is to stand down as the organisation’s Principal Medical Advisor.


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From Action for M.E.’s website

An overview of the work of our Principal Medical Advisor.

Professor Tony Pinching is Chairman of the Investment Steering Group that devised the process and criteria for setting up the new services; oversaw the assessment of bids; and allocated funds.

Associate Dean and professor of clinical immunology at the Peninsula Medical School in the Cornwall locality, he is also Honorary Consultant in clinical immunology at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

He is the lead adviser for the Department of Health on CFS/M.E. and one of the 13 clinical champions specialising in the illness across England, looking after the South-West Peninsula Centre, as well as leading the Cornwall Multi-Disciplinary Team.

Professor Pinching is also Action for M.E.’s Principal Medical Advisor.


Read Prof Pinching’s opinions on the Whittemore Peterson Institute paper

Action for M.E.

Professor Tony Pinching, Action for M.E.’s Principal Medical Adviser, sets out his views on XMRV in this article from InterAction 70, published this week:

InterAction 70 Christmas 2009

Page 9

Potential virus breakthrough

We thought all our Christmases had come early in October, when researchers at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, USA announced that they had identified genetic material (DNA) from a mouse virus – murine leukaemia virus related virus or XMRV- in 68 out of 101 CFS patients (67%) compared to 8 out of 218 (3.7%) of healthy people.

Further blood tests showed that more than 95% of CFS patients have antibodies to XMRV, indicating they had been infected with the virus, which may then have lain dormant in their DNA.

Dr Judy Mikovits, research director, Whittemore Peterson Institute, is testing a further 500 blood samples collated from patients diagnosed with CFS in London.

In our press statement, quoted in part by the BBC, Sir Peter Spencer said:

“It is still early days so we are trying not to get too excited but this news is bound to raise high hopes among a large patient group that has been ignored for far too long.

“If the researchers can go on to prove a definitive cause and effect between this retrovirus and M.E., it will make an enormous difference to 250,000 men, women and children who have M.E. in this country.

“Action for M.E. has long been calling on the UK Government to invest more in research into the causes of this horrible illness. Once we know the cause, researchers can start working on more effective treatments, preventive measures and ultimately a cure for M.E.”

What does this research signify?

Professor Tony Pinching, Action for M.E.’s Principal Medical Adviser says the study needs to be confirmed by independent research and it would be very premature to think about clinical tests or treatments based on these early findings (see below). His caution is echoed in statements by Professor Andrew Lloyd, Director, Centre for Infection and Inflammation Research, University of New South Wales (see ), NCI director Dr John Niederhuber ( ) and Dr Charles Shepherd, ME Association  (under ‘quick links’ on their home page). Professor Pinching comments:

“A new research report about CFS in a major science journal is obviously reason for some excitement. Many of you will have heard the news reports – some will have been hopeful, others sceptical, and many others unsure what to think. And that’s about the size of it too for the informed observer of the scientific data.

“In essence, a US study has shown apparent evidence of a virus (XMRV) in the blood cells of people with CFS, taken from a repository of samples from ‘well-characterised cohorts of patients.’

“XMRV is related to a class of mouse leukaemia viruses that have not been previously firmly associated with any human disease, although recently seen in some patients with prostate cancer. Although these viruses have been much studied in cancer biology, they can also be contaminants, although circumstantial evidence is against this here.

“67% of CFS patients compared with 4% of controls showed evidence of the DNA of this virus. Other evidence shows that the virus is actively expressed in patient cells, is capable of passing from cell to cell, and generates a detectable immune response in patients.

“The brief report lacks information about patient characteristics, and the comparability of patient and control samples, but the data seem plausible and internally consistent.

“However, much more work is needed to determine what these early findings signify. The first and most crucial test would be independent verification, through studies on large numbers of carefully characterised patients at other sites, preferably on fresh, not stored, samples.

“We also need studies on large numbers of both healthy people and people with other conditions. This is to clarify how specific the association is, and the extent to which XMRV occurs in other chronic immunological or neurological conditions.

“Biologically, there is no obvious mechanism that would link this sort of virus (very different from familiar viruses) to this sort of condition, although various plausible hypotheses could be devised. Most importantly, the virus could as easily be an effect of the illness, as it could be a cause or disease mechanism. An altered state of immune cells – from which the virus was derived – could activate an innocent passenger virus, for example.

“For the usual reasons, very preliminary research results have led to much speculation, inevitably raising hopes of people with CFS/ME. Loose talk of clinical tests and therapies based on these findings may reflect a genuine need for such things, but not any clear justification from the published science to date.

“So my thoughts so far are:

. this is interesting, but it first needs independent and substantive confirmation

. we don’t know whether XMRV is cause, effect, or just a passenger

. it would be very premature to think about clinical tests or treatments based on these early findings

. perhaps the most important thing is that this work will foster more high quality research on the biology of this clinically important but scientifically enigmatic condition.”

Professor Tony Pinching, for Action for M.E.  InterAction 70 Christmas 2009