Health

Cancer drug could aid heart attack recovery – study

A drug used to treat certain cancers could improve recovery after a heart attack, a new study suggests.

The medication helps the heart to heal and reduces the risk of further complications, according to research funded by the British Heart Foundation.

University of Cambridge scientists found that a low dose of the drug, known as aldesleukin, injected under the skin of patients who had had an acute heart attack increased the activation of immune cells shown to protect the heart.

The drug was specifically shown to activate a rare white blood cell called innate type 2 lymphocyte (ILC2).

Previous research has shown that this cell may be able to decrease the harmful inflammation that promotes the build-up of fatty deposits in arteries.

The experts looked at mice unable to produce ILC2 and found that their hearts were less able to recover after a heart attack.

Mice that could produce the cells had reduced heart scarring and better heart function after a heart attack.

By targeting the inflammation caused by the body’s immune response to a heart attack the researchers also hope to prevent the dangerous feedback loop that can increase a person’s chances of having a second heart attack.

Dr Tian Zhao, BHF clinical lecturer in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Cambridge, said: “Right now, there is no way to stop the immune system, which gets activated after a heart attack, from mistakenly damaging the heart.

“If our clinical trial shows that aldesleukin works the same way in people as it does in mice, by harnessing the ‘good cops’ of our immune system, we may have found a way to help the heart heal after a heart attack.”

Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the BHF, said: “Every five minutes someone is admitted to a UK hospital due to a heart attack.

“Thanks to research, heart attacks are now treatable, and seven out of 10 people will survive. However, many heart attack survivors will still be left with damaged hearts.

“This research reveals a new approach that has the potential to both help heal hearts damaged by a heart attack and reduce the risk of a further heart attack.

“If clinical trials results confirm these early research findings, drugs that activate ILC2 could revolutionise heart attack treatment.”

The researchers are now following patients who have been given aldesleukin after a heart attack in phase two clinical trials.

They hope further positive results will lead to larger trials and, eventually, a new treatment for heart attacks.

– The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).


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