Cardiology Pharmaceuticals

NYU’s Atherosclerosis Inflammation Discovery

NYU researchers discovered that AstraZeneca’s saracatinib – an investigational drug originally developed to treat cancer – could slow atherosclerosis progression by addressing inflammation that we know contributes to ASCVD and haven’t figured out how to treat.

The researchers’ path towards discovering saracatinib’s atherosclerosis benefits started with analyzing blood samples from 34 statin-takers with ASCVD and from 24 healthy controls – confirming that plasma from people with atherosclerosis had higher inflammatory signals. 

To find a potential treatment, they used the blood samples to identify which genes are involved in atherosclerosis inflammation, and then searched a pharmaceutical database to find an existing drug that might suppress the genetic processes that create that inflammation.

Their search brought them to saracatinib, which they found had a major impact on inflammation and plaque when they applied the cancer drug to…

  • Human blood and tissue samples — reduced inflammation signaling by over 90%
  • Rabbits — reduced plaque-based inflammation by 97%
  • Mice — reduced cells linked to plaque inflammation by 80%

Those results were strong enough for the authors to conclude that saracatinib has the potential to address inflammation in patients who are already taking lipid-lowering drugs, while proposing new phase 2 trials to test this theory.

Future saracatinib studies might be part of a new wave of research into CVD inflammation, noting that cardio-immunology startup Bitterroot Bio just emerged with a similar mission to address the unsolved aspects of cardiovascular disease inflammation.

The Takeaway

Even though we know that inflammation contributes to ASCVD in ways that are independent from dyslipidemia and high cholesterol, lipid-lowering therapy remains the only pharmacologic option for ASCVD risk reduction, leaving atherosclerosis inflammation untreated. Saracatinib might not prove to be the solution to this problem, but the recent surge in CVD inflammation research and funding suggests that we could be getting closer to a solution.

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