HOUSTON (Feb. 27, 2001) -- Reducing heart inflammation is showing promise as a treatment for chronic heart failure, according to a study published in the Feb. 27 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study conducted by Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that the drug etanercept, commonly used to reduce inflammation and prevent damage in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, also reduces inflammation in the heart. The inflammation produces a substance in the body called tumor necrosis factor that can damage heart tissue.
"Etanercept acts as a decoy to divert TNF away from injured heart cells," said Dr. Douglas Mann, professor of medicine and director of the Winters Center for Heart Failure Research at Baylor. "As a result, the heart is better able to heal."
Etanercept is designed to be used in conjunction with traditional therapies such as ACE inhibitors and vasodilators, which expand blood vessels, decrease resistance and allow blood to flow to the heart more easily. Patients administered the drug themselves by injection.
"In comparison with etanercept, traditional heart failure medications can be difficult to give, since they affect blood pressure and require the doctor to continually adjust the patient's dosage," Mann said. "Etanercept may give doctors another option to consider when developing their treatment plan."
In the study, etanercept improved quality of life in more than 60 percent of the 47 patients treated in the three-month study. The drug improved heart-pumping capacity in patients who received the highest dosage of the drug by an average of 20 percent and reduced the size of the heart by an average of 15 percent.
The study builds on earlier Baylor research on inflammation and the heart. Mann's laboratory discovered that the heart produces TNF when injured. Prior to this discovery, the immune system was thought to produce TNF in heart failure. This represented a change in the way in which scientists viewed the role of TNF in heart failure.
Baylor is continuing to investigate inflammation and the heart. Mann is the lead investigator in three multi-center clinical trials involving 1,800 patients. Study results are expected by the end of 2001.
"If the trials are positive, they could lead to a new and novel form of therapy for patients with chronic heart failure," Mann said.
Etanercept is manufactured under the tradename Enbrel® by Immunex Corporation of Seattle, Wash.
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