Patients with severe heart disease may soon have access to a simple injection to help manage their symptoms and reduce their need for large amounts of pain relief medication if a new study is successful.
Funded by the MBF Foundation, the second phase of the project will test whether using the G-SCF hormone to stimulate the release of blood vessel-forming stem cells can alleviate the condition, improve heart function and increase quality of life for people with severe heart disease.
Executive Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Professor Bob Graham, said evidence from the first phase of the study into the safety of the G-SCF treatment gave hope to the patients taking part. Many of these patients currently rely on numerous medications to relieve the pain caused by the lack of blood supply to the heart.
"The 20 patients trialling the innovative treatment responded extremely positively, with most experiencing a reduction in angina and finding that they were able to reduce their intake of pain relief with marked improvements in some patients," Professor Graham said.
"This is an incredible result, especially when you consider that many of these patients had already undergone multiple surgeries to try and correct the defects causing their heart to malfunction and were on the maximum doses of conventional medicines, yet still experienced chest pain from even the slightest exertion.
"However," he cautioned, "this was a safety trial and therefore was not placebo controlled, so we can't be absolutely sure yet if the improvements are entirely due to the G-CSF, hence the need for the next study.
The new phase of the trial involving 40 patients will combine physiotherapist-monitored exercise with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans to analyse how effectively the heart is operating. Half of the study participants will then be given low doses of G-SCF with the remainder receiving a saline placebo as a control. After 12weeks, heart function will again be checked using an MRI and the treatments of the two groups will be swapped with a final MRI scan three months later.
MBF Chief Medical Officer, Dr Christine Bennett, said the MBF Foundation is supporting this innovative study because of its potential to revolutionise the way in which severe heart disease is treated.
"If the study proves successful, an effective and easy to administer treatment regime involving simple injections under the skin, similar to insulin injections for diabetics, could be ready within three years," Dr Bennett said. "This outcome would be a great development for people with severe heart disease offering the exciting prospect of relief from constant pain in the foreseeable future."
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