Clinical Trials

A drug that fights both heart attack and cancer

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Science  10 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6364, pp. 759-760
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6364.759-b

Most drugs for heart disease work by lowering cholesterol. Yet even people with normal cholesterol levels can have heart attacks, suggesting that cholesterol is only one contributing factor. A new study reveals a key role for the pro-inflammatory molecule interleukin-1β (IL-1β) in cardiovascular disease. Ridker et al. report a clinical trial of more than 10,000 people who had previously suffered a heart attack. They find that the drug canakinumab lowered the incidence of stroke, recurrent heart attack, or cardiovascular death by around 15%. Canakinumab works by specifically targeting IL-1β–driven inflammation without affecting cholesterol. In the same trial, the drug was also associated with improved survival of patients with lung cancer. However, the trial was not without a downside, and individuals taking canakinumab had significantly higher risk of death from infections.

N. Engl. J. Med. 10.1056/NEJMoa1707914 (2017); Lancet 10.1016/S01406736(17)32247-X (2017).

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