Debra Duke had found herself among the two-thirds or more of menopausal women who get hot flashes. Several times a day, she abruptly heated up as if she’d been dropped on some invisible skillet.
Hot flashes are uncomfortable, they’re disruptive, and they are pervasive, affecting some 10 million women in the United States alone on any given day. As of 2008, when Duke noted that her hot flashes had quite suddenly dissipated, there was a single U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drug to treat hot flashes: hormone replacement therapy.
But Duke wasn’t taking hormones or anything else to ice her hot flashes. Rather, during a workup, the late University of Colorado School of Medicine oncologist Fred Kolhouse, MD, had diagnosed mild neutropenia – a deficit of white blood cells called neutrophils – and prescribed granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) to stimulate her body’s neutrophil production.
G-CSF had been FDA-approved since 1991, when Amgen brought the drug Neupogen to market. Countless women, many of them coming off cancer therapy, have taken it since. Some may have noticed their hot flashes cooling as a result. Only Duke acted on that insight – in her case, launching a company,MenoGeniX
, that aims to help women everywhere douse their hot flashes with a customized form of G-CSF.