Dr Carolyn Lam: Welcome to Circulation on the Run, your weekly podcast summary and backstage pass to the journal and its editors. I'm Dr. Carolyn Lam, associate editor from the National Heart Center and Duke National University of Singapore. Our feature paper this week really adds to our understanding of the cause/effect relationship between obesity and heart failure, this time by comparing the effects of gastric bypass surgery versus intensive lifetime treatment on heart failure risk. Before we talk about that, though, let me give you your summary of this week's journal.
The first paper brings us one step closer to understanding cardiac recovery in response to mechanical unloading by left ventricular assist devices and it does this by showing that this process may involve the transverse tubular system, which is a micro structural feature of ventricular cardiomyocytes important for contractility and consisting of tubular invaginations of the sarcolemma predominantly located at the Z-lines of sarcomeres. This transverse tubular system is crucial for efficient excitation contraction coupling by bringing L-type calcium channels in the sarcolemma in proximity to clusters of ryanodine receptors in the sarcoplasmic reticulum.
In the current study by co-corresponding authors, Dr. Seidel and Drakos and Sachse from University of Utah, the authors studied left ventricular biopsies obtained from five donors and 26 patients with chronic heart failure undergoing implantation of left ventricular assist devices or LVAD's. They used three dimensional confocal microscopy and computational image analysis to assess the transverse tubular system's structure, density, and distance of ryanodine receptor clusters to the sarcolemma.
They found that the majority of heart failure myocytes showed remarkable transverse tubular system remodeling, particular sheet-like invaginations of the sarcolemma, which is previously unknown phenotype. This sheet-like transverse tubular system remodeling led to increased distances of ryanodine receptors to the sarcolemma causing heterogeneous intracellular calcium release and consequently inefficient excitation contraction coupling. High degrees of transverse tubular remodeling at the time of LVAD implantation was associated with absence of functional cardiac recovery during mechanical unloading, whereas preserved transverse tubular systems structure was associated with recovery.
In summary, cardiac recovery during unloading may require an intact transverse tubular system at the time of LVAD implantation. And characterizing this system may help to identify patients with a high probability of functional cardiac recovery in response to mechanical unloading.
There have been a proliferation of algorithms based in high sensitivity assays for cardiac troponins for the diagnosis or exclusion of myocardial infarction. All these algorithms have the potential to overwhelm clinicians with options. Well, there is help in this week's issue with two observational studies directly comparing the diagnostic performances of multiple high-sensitivity troponin testing strategies.
Now, before I describe these two studies in detail, here are some important reminders. Remember that as of early 2017, although high-sensitivity troponin assays are routinely used in many regions of the world, they are not available in the United States. Thus, the specific algorithms discussed here are not applicable with the contemporary sensitive assays that are presently used in the United States. Next, let's remind ourselves that both the United States and European professional guidelines recommend serial measurement of cardiac troponins at presentation or zero hours and three to six hours later with additional testing beyond six hours in patients who have electrocardiographic changes, or intermediate or high clinical risk features.
The 2015 European Society of Cardiology Guidelines also included an alternative strategy reducing the sampling interval to one hour when using a high sensitivity troponin assay with a validated zero and one hour algorithm based on the 99 percentile cutoff of these high sensitivity troponin assays. Now to the two studies in the current issue, which tie together the expanding evidence with direct comparisons of several of the strategies using the same high sensitivity cardiac troponin assay by Abbott.
Dr. Chapman and colleagues from the royal infirmary of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, compared the standard ECS zero and three hour strategy based on the 99th percentile upper reference limit at both time points with the high sensitivity troponin in the evaluation of patients with acute coronary syndrome, or high stakes algorithm, and that would be a zero, three, and six hour algorithm that incorporates a zero hour criteria and at a very low cutoff of five nanogram per liter and a three hour criterion that directs patients with either a rising concentration or with an absolute concentration above the upper reference limit to additional testing.
Among 1,218 patients with suspected myocardial infarction, the high stakes algorithm delivered both a higher proportion ruled out for myocardial infarction at zero hours and a higher negative predictive value of 99.5% versus 97.9%. The ESC pathway missed 18 index and two recurrent myocardial infarction events, whereas the high stakes pathway missed two index and two recurrent myocardial infarction events. These findings demonstrate the value of adding a very low zero hour cutoff to facilitate earlier rule out as well as the value of a delta criterion to exclude increasing values among patients that progress to three hour sampling.
In the next study, first author, Dr. Boeddinghaus, corresponding author Dr. Mueller and colleagues from University Hospital of Basel, Switzerland compared the ESC alternative zero and one hour strategy with three other approaches using either a single cutoff at zero hours, or the one hour strategy. Among 2,828 patients with symptoms suspicious for myocardial infarction and no ST elevation, each of these four approaches delivered a negative predicted value above 99% comparing favorably to the ESC zero and three hour algorithm that had a negative predictive value of 98.4%.
Now, although each of the strategies performed similarly among patients presenting more than two hours after symptom onset, among the early presenters, the negative predictive value and sensitivity were diminished using the single zero hour cutoff of five nanograms per liter. The authors concluded that the single cutoff strategy, the one hour algorithm, and the zero and one hour algorithm, allow the triage towards rule out of myocardial infarction in more than half of consecutive patients presenting with suspected MI to the emergency department. However, the single cutoff strategy should not be used in patients presenting early after chest pain onset.
These papers are discussed in an excellent editorial, which also puts everything in perspective by Dr. David Morrow from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. I particularity want to refer all of you to the figure that's found in its editorial which really helps you to understand the different strategies involved.
The final study tells us about potential death averted and serious adverse events occurred from the adoption of the SPRINT intensive blood pressure regimen in the United States. As a reminder, the systolic blood pressure intervention trial, or SPRINT demonstrated a 27% reduction in all caused mortality with a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120 versus less than 140 mm Hg among American adults at high cardiovascular risk, but without diabetes, stroke, or heart failure.
In the current study, Dr. Bress and colleagues from the University of Utah School of Medicine applied the SPRINT eligibility criteria to the 1999 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES and linked this with the national death index through December, 2011. They found that if fully implemented in eligible US adults, intensive blood pressure treatment was projected to prevent about 107,500 deaths and 46,100 of heart failure per year. But, you also give rise to about 56,100 episodes of hypertension. 34,400 episodes of syncope, 43,400 serious electrolyte disorders, and 88,700 of acute kidney injury per year compared to standard blood pressure treatment. Thus, they take home message is careful patients selection and implementation are important because intensive treatment while preventing deaths is associated with increased risks of hypertension, syncope, electrolyte abnormalities and acute kidney injury.
Well, that brings us to a close for the summaries, now for our feature discussion.
We are discussing obesity and heart failure. Now, we've heard of the obesity paradox, but we also know that obesity may be a risk factor for heart failure and the study today really puts perspective on this and is really one of the largest most convincing studies I've read on this topic. I am so pleased to have the person corresponding author, Dr. Johan Sundstrom from Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden. Welcome, Johan.
Dr Johan Sundstrom: Thank you, lovely to talk to you.
Dr Carolyn Lam: And especially pleased to have back on the show again, Dr. Torbjorn Omland from University of Oslo, Norway. Hi, welcome back, Torbjorn.
Dr Torbjorn Omland: Thank you very much. It's a great pleasure being here.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Johan, you know what? Could you just start by telling us about your study?
Dr Johan Sundstrom: So, we were fortunate enough to have two great databases here in Sweden. One was the obesity surgery registry called SOREG in which all people have a gastric bypass surgery, for people who are registered. And we also have a company called Itrim who provide intensive lifestyle program, which takes people down on average about 11 kilos, and they have a very structured database as well. So, we were able to pull this data in order to try and understand the effects of intentional weight loss to two different levels of weight loss, what that does to the heart failure incidence.
This is a bit of a comparative effectiveness study, so it's of course necessary to make the examples as similar as possible to apply exclusion criteria. We took away everyone who had a body mass index of less than 30 and above 50 and then we applied propensity scores to those two data sets and we had to trim the data sets a little bit further in order to get so called region of common support, which means that we were left with two samples who could have either had surgery or a lifestyle intervention. And then we applied an inverse probability weighting scheme to that. It's statistically complicated but what that does, is it's a matching, but it's not as complicated as matching. With matching, you just give people a weight of 1 or 0, but this gives people other weights as well.
So, we end up with characteristics that were very similar at baseline. So, we tried to mimic as close as possible what a randomized clinical trial looks like, but of course we did it posthoc and it’s observational. So, we get our table one, sort of, in this paper that shows very similar characteristics of the two groups. So, what we did then is we noted what happened to the people in these two groups in terms of heart failure incidence and we followed them in our national inpatient registry. So, all the Swedish citizens get a personal identification number so we can use that to follow people in our patient registry. So, we know exactly what drugs people will collect from pharmacies, and we know what they died from, and we know all of their hospitalizations. And we previously validated their heart failure diagnosis in the Swedish Inpatient Registry and we noted that you were in a pretty good position if you were hospitalized with heart failure as the main cause of hospitalization and we noted that people who had agreed to do surgery, had about half the incidence of heart failure than people who were in the intensive lifestyle program.
We also noted, if you looked at the achieved weight loss one year after baseline, we noted that a ten kilo weight loss after one year was related to about a 23% lower risk of heart failure. So we noted a litany of association between the achieved weight loss and heart failure incidence. It should said, though, that heart failure in this age group, they are only 41 on average, 41 years old. Heart failure's still very unusual at this age, even in many of these people. We only had 73 cases of heart failure. So, the exact numbers need to be taken with a pinch of salt and have wide confidence intervals around them.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Johan, this is exactly why I'm so impressed with your data. First you showed a dose response relationship between the weight loss and risk of heart failure. You also show that it's not an event that occurs very often and so, it would be very difficult to imagine doing a randomized controlled trial for example in this setting and having to wait very long for these events. So, it really goes to show your observational data are extremely important. And I really like the way you took the pains to describe how you tried to overcome the differences that exist between the groups and try to make it as much resembling a randomized trial setting as you could. So, maybe I could turn it over to you, Torbjorn. Could you tell us what you think the implications of this paper are?
Dr Torbjorn Omland: First, I will say that that this paper has all the characteristics of a very high quality study. It's a very timely topic that interests a lot of people. The paper's very well written. It's a large sample size as you said and it was very clinically meaningful difference between the groups and that translated into very clear and robust answers. So, I think that this has every mark of high quality paper.
But, of course, the very important question is how will this translate into actions? How can we use this information to prevent problems? We know heart failure is a very prevalent disease, especially in the elderly and although the incidence was lower here, I think my question for Johan at least is what would be the next step? What changes can we implement to reduce heart failure among the obese?
Dr Johan Sundstrom: That's a great question. I think in this study puts a little piece of the puzzle on the table and that's trying to add a little more evidence towards a causal association between obesity and heart failure. I'm not sure about what we can offer these patients and what will be the translation to lower heart failure incidence in the long run. Of course, we need to follow this sample for longer to have more heart failure cases, because I don't think we've seen the full impact of weight loss in these two samples. We might need to follow them into older age where they would have a higher heart failure incidence.
But, how to tackle obesity, I think we'll need accommodate population strategies and high risk strategies. I think if the general consensus in the scientific community after reading this and other important papers, is that there's causal link between obesity and heart failure, then we might need to understand that people who are obese and who have shortness of breath and perhaps swelling or what not, may not just be having low fitness, they might actually behaving signs of heart failure.
So, I think as a sort of increased diligence on heart failure, these people might be one thing. But, we didn't really study that. So, I wouldn't draw conclusion. But, otherwise I think it's more of a causal inference piece of the puzzle that we've laid rather than a clinical care piece of the puzzle.
Dr Torbjorn Omland: No, I agree, and here you won't to make any recommendations in regards to what interventions you should recommend particularly based on this particular study.
Dr Johan Sundstrom: No, because I think there are so many other things that need to be taken into account when it comes to treatment of obesity. Heart failure is actually one of the uncommon outcomes in this age group. We're looking at other outcomes after they present. Myocardial infarction, ventral fibrillation and mortality are actually much more common. So, I think a lot of other data should go into decisions on how to treat patients, not just for heart failure, which is still fairly uncommon at this age.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Going back to the other question that Torbjorn asked, do you think that this question still needs to be answered in any way? You've got the Mendelian randomization data. Now, you've got your data. Do you think it's still a question of whether obesity is a risk factor for heart failure? And just in case there's any confusion out there, would you put that together with the so called obesity paradox in heart failure?
Dr Johan Sundstrom: To answer the first one, I think we're not going to have any randomized evidence. Treatment of heart failure with intensive programs and prevention of heart failure ... It needs for huge samples that I don't think we're going to have any much better observational evidence anytime soon either. So, we can probably set that question aside a little bit. But, when it comes to the obesity paradox, first of all that's not what we studied here. We didn't have anyone with heart failure in this sample. We included all those people. We can only speculate. I'm a clinical epidemiologist myself, but I'm envious of people who have animal and other models because I think there's a lot more work to do in terms of ppars and and lipid metabolism in obesity and in heart failure. So, I think there'll be more interesting experimental research to come that can help us answer the obesity paradox.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Please don't forget to tell your friends about this podcast, and tune in again next week.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Welcome to Circulation On the Run, your weekly podcast summary and backstage pass to the journal and its editors. I'm Dr. Carolyn Lam, associate editor from the National Heart Center, and Duke National University of Singapore. Our feature paper this week discusses the very important patient group with myocardial infarction and non-obstructive coronary artery disease, a paper that we will be digging deep into right after these summaries.
The first paper identifies a novel therapeutic target in pulmonary arterial hypertension, and that is nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase, a cytozyme which regulates intracellular NAD levels and cellular redox state, regulates histone deacetylases, promotes cell proliferation, and inhibits apoptosis.
This is a paper from first author Dr. Chen and co-corresponding authors Dr. Machado from University of Illinois Chicago and Dr. Garcia from the University of Arizona. The authors found that plasma and mRNA and protein levels of nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase were all increased in the lungs and the isolated pulmonary arterial endothelial cells from patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension.
They were also increased in the lungs of rodent models of pulmonary hypertension. Nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase deficient mice were protected from hypoxia mediated pulmonary hypertension; whereas, enhanced activity promoted human arterial smooth muscle cell proliferation via paracrine effect and inhibition of activity attenuated pulmonary hypertension in rats.
This paper, therefore, provides evidence that nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase plays a role in pulmonary vascular remodeling and its inhibition could be a potential therapeutic target for pulmonary arterial hypertension.
The next study suggests that high sensitivity cardiac troponin T may be an early biochemical signature for clinical and subclinical heart failure. In this study from first author Dr. Seliger, corresponding author Dr. deFilippi, and colleagues from Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, the authors measured high sensitivity cardiac troponin T at baseline among almost five thousand participants in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis MESA cohort, who were initially free of overt cardiovascular disease.
Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging was performed at baseline and repeated 10 years later among 2,831 participants who remain free of interim cardiovascular disease events, among whom 1,723 also received gadolinium enhanced cardiac magnetic resonance for characterization of replacement fibrosis by late gadolinium enhancement. Results showed that a mild elevation of high sensitivity cardiac troponin T identified subjects at highest risk for an increase in left ventricular mass and end diastolic volume over the next 10 years.
Higher levels also associated with an increased incidence of replacement fibrosis, but with no differentiation between ischemic or non-ischemic fibrosis patterns. For the more high levels remained an independent predictor for incident heart failure, coronary heart disease events and cardiovascular events, independent of underlying left ventricular hypertrophy or ejection faction.
The implications are that myocyte injury, measured with a highly sensitive cardiac specific troponin assay may ultimately be an important early signal used to target therapy to prevent or delay left ventricular remodeling and progression to heart failure.
Does maintenance of cardiovascular risk factors at target eliminate the excess risk of mortality in cardiovascular diseases associated with type 1 diabetes? Well, this question was addressed in the next paper by Dr. Rawshani and colleagues of the Swedish National Diabetes Register in Gothenburg Sweden. The authors compared more than 33,300 patients with type 1 diabetes to more than 166,500 match controls without diabetes from the Swedish National Diabetes Register. They found that patients with type 1 diabetes, with five selected cardiovascular risk factors at target, demonstrated a non-significant access risk of death compared to controls.
These five risk factors included glycated hemoglobin, blood pressure, albuminuria, smoking, and LDL cholesterol. Nonetheless, despite having all risk factors at target, persons with type 1 diabetes still had 82% to 97% elevated risk of myocardial infarction and heart failure respectively. For every incremental risk factor not at target, the excess risk of death in cardiovascular outcomes increased in a graded fashion.
In conclusion, there was a steep graded association between decreasing number of cardiovascular risk factors at target and major adverse cardiovascular outcomes with patients with type 1 diabetes. While achievement of current evidence based target levels of five cardiovascular risk factors markedly reduced or even potentially eliminated the excess mortality risk, these patients remained at higher risk of myocardial infarction and heart failure compared with controls.
The final paper suggests that hemodynamic guided heart failure management may be beneficial in general clinical practice and not just in the context of controlled trials. In this study by Dr. Heywood and colleagues from Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, the authors examined the first 2,000 patients implanted with the novel Pulmonary Artery Pressure Sensor, CardioMEMS, in the general cardiology practice setting.
They found that patients uploaded information an average of every 1.2 days, and that pressures were significantly reduced by remote monitoring using the Pulmonary Artery Sensor where patients with the highest mean pulmonary artery pressures had the highest reduction in pressures. Furthermore, they found that these general use patients experienced a greater reduction in pulmonary artery pressure over time compared to those in the pivotal CHAMPION clinical trial.
The results from this large observational study, therefore, demonstrates hemodynamic heart failure management may be effective in U.S. clinical practice with high rates of patient adherence and effective pressure management.
This paper is accompanied by an excellent editorial by Drs. Gorter, Rienstra, and van Veldhuisen from University Medical Center, Groningen, Netherlands, which really places this paper in the clinical context of heart failure and particularly patients with heart failure and preserved ejection faction
Well that wraps it up for your summaries. Now for our feature discussion.
We're discussing a hugely important emerging issue today. And it's MINOCA, a myocardial infarction with non-obstructive coronary arteries, and a very important paper in today's issue, which really provides the first insight into potential long-term medical therapy in the management of MINOCA.
However, now this issue of MINOCA is quite new and I'm sure new to many of those listening on the line. So, I am with the first and corresponding author of the paper, Dr. Bertil Lindahl from Uppsala Clinical Research Center in Sweden. Welcome.
Dr Bertil Lindahl: Thank You.
Dr Carolyn Lam: And also the associate editor who managed this paper, Dr. Gabriel Steg from Hospital Bichat in Paris, France. Welcome back.
Dr Gabriel Steg: Hello.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Now, we need to start by first understanding what we're talking about. MINOCA ... give us a good definition of what you mean by MINOCA. And does it include the non-coronary causes of AMI, or non-obstructive disease? Does it include myocarditis? Does it include the non-cardiac causes, like pulmonary embolism?
Dr Bertil Lindahl: Our definition of MINOCA used in this paper is that you received the ICD code for acute myocardial infarction. If you have a clinically clear case of myocarditis or Takotsubo and were not included in this analysis. But we know if we look into patients that have got the diagnosis of myocardial infarction ... if you performed, for instance, MRI afterward, you can see that a portion of the patients experience ... between 10 and 30 percent of the MINOCA patients, have evidence of myocarditis, although it was not clinically expected.
So this is a heterogeneous population ... initial diagnosis was myocardial infarction.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Thank you for clarifying what you used in your study. Gabriel, could I just, you know, bring you in on this because you invited an excellent editorial that accompanies this paper. And, basically, it helps to get us past all this terminology you know, MINOCA now. Could you maybe just clarify the overall perspective of what it means?
Dr Gabriel Steg: Yeah. This area is fairly new and we still have a major nomenclature problem. Clearly it's been recognized for many years that patients who have a clinical syndrome of myocardial infarction do not necessarily have obstructive coronary artery disease. At least severe obstructive coronary artery disease. Many patients have mild lesions and some patients apparently have no lesion at all.
Now, over the last few years we've understood that this is really a syndrome. And that under that big umbrella, there are patients who have non-cardiac causes of troponin elevation and chest pain. These should be excluded from MINOCA. If you have pulmonary embolism, this is not MINOCA. This is pulmonary embolism.
The second aspect is there are more subtle distinctions to be made with fairly new entities such as Takotsubo. When this study was started, Takotsubo was an emerging disease concept. And so the authors were not able to properly rule out the Takotsubos and probably a few myocarditis from their data set. We now have learned over the past few years that MRI is an excellent tool to screen MINOCA patients and flush out patients who have myocarditis or Takotsubo, which are not rare. Actually it's a substantial portion of that entity.
And then we're left with what I call the true MINOCA. Now what's fascinating in the study here is really that ... first of all I want to say this is another great study from our Swedish colleagues leveraging their data collection tools, which are remarkable. Really an example to the world.
The second thing is they have collected ten years of data on MINOCA. And they're able to tease out which are the agents that should be using secondary prevention in that population. Elegantly demonstrating with sensitivity analysis and positive and negative controls what are the agents associated with improved outcomes and what are the agents that apparently do not impact outcomes.
So even though at the time they were not able to rule out myocarditis and Takotsubo properly, still the sheer size of their study, long term follow up, and the careful statistical analysis that they've done are remarkable.
Dr Carolyn Lam: I couldn't agree more. And more so in an area that is really emerging in importance. And for which we don't have any prospective clinical trials. I'm correct in saying that, right ? So Bertil, this would be a great point for you to let us know what are the main findings from your study please.
Dr Bertil Lindahl: The main findings are that statins are associated with a beneficial effect on the cardiac event. And also, ACE inhibitors or ARBs , while we were not able to show statistically things you can affect with beta blockers and similarly not with dual anti-platelet treatment. So that's basically the main findings of the study.
Dr Carolyn Lam: May I ask how have these findings personally impacted your clinical practice or do you think the next steps are gaps that need to be addressed first?
Dr Bertil Lindahl: I think that's an ongoing discussion in Sweden now and in our hospital on how this should be applied to clinical practice. Nothing. It will have an effect that statins and ACE Inhibitors or ARBs will be used. I'm not sure whether we still can say that we should not use beta blockers or dual antiplatelet treatment. But I think also that we are now discussing we should do a randomized clinical trial to really tease out whether we should use beta blockers or not or also verifying the findings regarding ACE Inhibitors and ARBs.
So, I think there's always a discussion whether we can really use observation studies for treatment decision. But I think since we don't have any better trials so far I think that this is the best that we can get. So I think it will be used and applied in clinical practice.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Indeed. I really agree with what Gabriel said this is the best available evidence we have now. And my personal take home message was to pay more attention to the statins and the ACE Inhibitors. So congratulations on this great study.
Gabriel, what do you think? What are next steps? I mean, MINOCA's not even in the guidelines now. Our guidelines talk about type 1, type 2, AMI ...how does it all fit in?
Dr Gabriel Steg: Well, we've seen a sea change in the concepts regarding myocardial infarction over the last fifteen years with the advent of troponin and the ability to diagnose new patients that previously we wouldn't even label as an MI.
The second aspect is we've recognized over the years that there are some genuine MI's that don't have severe obstructive coronary artery disease. Now what's interesting is that some of them may have apparently mild obstructive disease. Which presumably is related to coronary dissections, embolism, plaque rupture with thrombosis that disappeared in the interim. And some of them may have actually "clean" coronary arteries and have myocardial infarction related to other mechanisms such as micro vascular mechanisms. What's interesting, and I'd like to ask the opinion of Dr. Lindahl is, these three types of diseases; mildly obstructive disease, coronary dissection, and microvascular angina are all more frequent among women. And I wonder whether you have any insights regarding gender differences in your registry.
Dr Bertil Lindahl: In this study, in the sub-group analysis we saw no significant interaction between gender and the effects. But unfortunately we don't have the registry information between , let's say completely "normal coronary arteries" versus "mildly obstructed coronary arteries". And that's a clear limitation of this study. It will be very interesting to see whether these effects are similar in these two sub-groups.
It seems from other studies that approximately fifty percent of the MINOCA patients that have normal coronary arteries and fifty percent that have mild aortic disease. So this is a limitation of this study and I think that's just something we have to look for in the future. And I hope that we will have in the registry onwards, data on whether this normal or mild coronary artery disease.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Really appreciate that and really appreciate the insights you gentlemen have shared. Any final words or concluding remarks, Gabriel?
Dr Gabriel Steg: Well, again congratulations on the great study. I would refer our readers to the excellent editorial of John Beltrame that accompanies this paper, which reviews the concepts of MINOCA, the nomenclature, and some of the remaining and lingering questions that plague the field. And delineates way forward for studies.
I think it's a fascinating area. I'm sure we're going to hear a lot more, both from the Swedish Heart Registry as well as other data sources. I think we all need to stay tuned to this important area. The prognosis of these patients is not so good, so we need to pay attention to that entity.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Wonderfully put. Well, thank you listeners for joining us this week. Please share this episode with all of your friends. So thank you and join us next week.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Welcome to Circulation on the Run, your weekly podcast summary and backstage pass to The Journal and its editors. I'm Dr. Carolyn Lam, associate editor from the National Heart Center and Duke National University of Singapore.
Today's issue features two exciting papers regarding heart failure in patients with breast cancer. We will be discussing this right after these summaries.
Are we any closer to improving survival in Eisenmenger syndrome? Well, today's first original paper looks at contemporary trends and presents a multivariable mortality risk stratification model based on five simple noninvasive predictors of death in this population. Dr. Kempny and colleagues from Royal Brompton Hospital in London in the United Kingdom preform a large multicenter study in 1098 patients with Eisenmenger syndrome followed up between years 2000 and 2015.
At the end of the study almost two-thirds of patients were on advance therapy for pulmonary arterial hypertension, while only six patients underwent lung or heart and lung transplantation. The study showed that despite advances in management, there was significant mortality amongst contemporary adults with Eisenmenger syndrome and 25.3% of patients died over a median follow up period of 3.1 years. Mortality was higher in older patients, those with a pre-tricuspid shunt, lower oxygen saturation, absence of sinus rhythm, or with a pericardial effusion.
This important study is accompanied by an editorial by Drs. Lange, from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and Dr. Brickner from UT Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. The editorialists call for a prospective randomized control trials of the effect of current, or future pulmonary vasoactive disease targeting therapies on mortality in Eisenmenger syndrome patients, and say it's time to direct our efforts from improving risk-stratification towards improving survival.
The next study provides experimental evidence of tolerogenic dendritic cell therapy as a novel anti-remodeling therapy in myocardial infarction. Tolerogenic dendritic cells are promising, potent, beneficial regulators of the post-infarct healing process via their control of T-regulatory cells and M1 M2 macrophages. Plus they have the advantage of the ease of administration and feasibility of a heart specific tolero-dendritic cell production.
In the current paper by co-first authors, Drs. Choo and Lee, and co-corresponding authors, Drs. Chang and Lim, from Catholic University Korea and Chai University in Korea, authors generated tolerogenic dendritic cells by treating bone marrow-derived dendritic cells with TNF-alpha and cardiac lysate from mice with myocardial infarction. They then injected myocardial infarction mice twice with tolerogenic dendritic cells within 24 hours and at 7 days after LAD ligation. In treated animals, in vivo cardiac magnetic resonance imaging and ex vivo histology confirm the beneficial effects on post-infarct LV remodeling. Furthermore, subcutaneously administered tolerogenic dendritic cells near the inguinal lymph node migrated to the regional lymph nodes and induced infarct tissue specific T-regulatory T-cell populations in the inguinal and mediastinal lymph nodes, spleen, and infarcted myocardium, all of which elicited an inflammatory to reparative macrophage shift. The altered immune environment in the infarcted heart resulted in better wound remodeling, preserved left ventricular systolic function, and an improved survival following myocardial infarction. Thus, this study shows that tolerogenic dendritic cell therapy in a preclinical model of myocardial infarction may be potentially translatable into an anti-remodeling therapy for ischemic repair.
The final paper reports results of cell therapy on exercise performance and limb perfusion in peripheral artery disease from the PACE trial, which is an NHLBI-sponsored randomized double-blind placebo-controlled phase two clinical trial, designed to assess the safety and efficacy of autologous bone marrow-derived aldehyde dehydrogenase bright cells in peripheral artery disease, and to explore associated claudication physiological mechanisms. In this paper from corresponding author Dr. Moye from UT School of Public Health in Houston, Texas and colleagues of the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network, a total of 82 patients with claudication and infrainguinal peripheral artery disease were randomized at nine sites to receive alcohol dehydrogenase bright cells or placebo. All patients underwent bone marrow aspiration and isolation of aldehyde dehydrogenase bright cells followed by 10 injections into the thigh and calf of the index leg. Results showed that there were no significant differences in the change over six months between study groups for the co-primary endpoint of peak walking time, collateral count, peak hyperemic popliteal flow, and capillary profusion measured by magnetic resonance imaging.
Additionally, there were no significant differences for the secondary endpoints including quality of life measures. There were no adverse safety outcomes. Interestingly, a post-hoc exploratory analysis suggested that aldehyde dehydrogenase bright cell administration might be associated with an increase in the number of collateral arteries in participants with completely occluded femoral arteries.
In summary, cell therapy did not improve peak walk time or magnetic resonance outcomes, and the changes in peak walk time were not associated with the anatomic or physiologic MRI endpoints. However, future peripheral artery disease cell therapy trial design may be informed by new anatomic and perfusion insights. These and other issues are discussed in an accompanying editorial by Drs. Breton-Romero and Hamburg from Boston University School of Medicine. Well, that wraps it up for our summaries, now for our feature discussion.
We are really in the grove here in Washington, D.C. and I am borrowing the words of my very special, star associate editor, guest, Dr. Gregory Hundley, and he's from Wakefield University School of Medicine. We're discussing two very important papers and they deal with the risk of heart failure following breast cancer. Why they're so important? Well, first of all, it's about time we looked at this problem in detail, and secondly, they actually represent papers in a new section of the journal called "Bridging Disciplines," and in this case cardio-oncology. Very, very important topics.
We're here with the corresponding authors of both papers, Bonnie Ky from University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Dr. Margaret Redfield from Mayo Clinic.
Dr Gregory Hundley: Thank you, Carolyn. I really appreciate that wonderful introduction and also the chance to talk with Bonnie about this exciting topic.
So, Bonnie, you've got a paper here, now, where you did a study in patients with breast cancer, and it sounds like you acquired echocardiograms over a period of time. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dr Bonnie Ky: Correct. So this is longitudinal prospective cohort study, it's an NIH-funded R01, whereby we are enrolling patients from the breast cancer clinic who are receiving doxorubicin or trastuzumab or a combination of the two therapies. And we're performing very careful cardiovascular phenotyping, from the time at which they initiate chemotherapy through their chemotherapy and then annually once a year we have them come back, for a total follow up time of 10 years.
We took a subcohort, 277 patients, and from their echocardiograms, we analyze them very carefully for various measures of left ventricular size, function, not only systolic function but also diastolic function. We also looked at measures of contractility such as strain in multiple dimensions, and then also measures of ventricular arterial coupling, as well as arterial loads, so how the ventricle interacts with the arterial system. And what we found was that over a 3.2 period time period, on population average, these modest declines in left ventricular ejection fraction, and even across all three treatment groups, and even at three years there were persistent LVF declines.
Dr Gregory Hundley: So, I understand, Bonnie, that you also collected some information as to whether or not these patients were experiencing symptoms associated with heart failure. How did the imaging markers relate to the symptomatology associated with heart failure?
Dr Bonnie Ky: What we found was that early changes in arterial stiffness or total arterial load, as well as early changes in EF were associated with worse heart failure symptoms at one year. A lot of our other analysis was focused on defining what echo parameters of remodeling, size, function are driving or associated most strongly with LVF decline, as well as LVF recovery.
Dr Gregory Hundley: And then at two years, what happened? Did the echo parameters, were they still associated with heart failure or was there a little discrepancy there?
Dr Bonnie Ky: Interestingly, at two years ... no, there was no significant association with changes in arterial load and heart failure symptoms at two years.
Dr Gregory Hundley: So there might be something transient that's occurring that is associated with heart failure early, and then the patients still had heart failure late, so maybe something else is operative. What do you think we need to do next? What's the next step in your research and then other investigators around the world; what do we need to do to design studies to look at these issues further?
Dr Bonnie Ky: Yeah. What does the field need, the field of cardio-oncology that's really growing and developing at rapid paces. Some of the major findings from the study was that changes in total arterial load were very strongly associated with both LVF decline and LVF recovery. So total arterial load is the measure of blood pressure or total arterial stiffness, it's derived from blood pressure. And to me, that begs the question, or begs the next step is that changes in blood pressure are associated with decline as well as recovery. I think, oh, as cardiologists we've also always recognized the importance of afterload reduction. And to me, this study suggests that we need a study, a randomized clinical trial, looking at blood pressure lowering in this population to help mitigate LVF declines.
Dr Carolyn Lam: I'd actually like to turn it back to you. You are world-renowned for your work in cardio-oncology. Where do you think this fits in, and where do you think we need to address most urgently?
Dr Gregory Hundley: I think where this fits in wonderfully is a lot of individuals around the world are collecting echocardiographic measures, and all different types. And what Bonnie has helped do is clarify what we would expect to see in this particular patient population. How those measures change over time and that feeds into another block of data, when the measurements head south, do we change therapy, do we add protective agents, and things of that nature. So I think Bonnie's work really contributes on that front. What she has also pointed out is that more research needs to be performed, not necessarily because the patients had heart failure symptomatology at two years, but not necessarily associated with the decline in EF; are there other systems in the cardiovascular realm that are being affected? The vascular system-
Dr Carolyn Lam: Yeah.
Dr Gregory Hundley: Skeletal muscle, many other areas. So as cardiologists start to work more with oncologists in this space, and we're all working together to make sure that not only patients survive their cancer, but they have an excellent quality of life, I think we'll see, as we have in other heart failure syndromes, a look toward other aspects of the cardiovascular system, body in general, to reduce the overall morbidity associated with the disease.
I think what we need to recognize as cardiovascular medicine specialists is that now for many forms of cancer, cardiovascular events, and certainly morbidity are becoming the primary issue that folks have to deal with with survivors. It's not necessarily the cancer recurrence, it's not necessarily a new cancer, it's cardiovascular. So we've got to integrate cardiology earlier in working with oncologists to improve overall survival and create an excellent quality of life from our different perspectives.
Dr Carolyn Lam: So, Maggie, let's move on to your paper now. You looked at radiotherapy's effect, whereas Bonnie looked at chemotherapy's effect. Could you tell us what you did and what you found?
Dr Margaret Redfield: The rationale for doing this study was, of course, seeing a lot of patients with HFpEF who had had radiation therapy for breast cancer, and I always just sort of assumed that that was because 12% of women over the age of 40 get breast cancer and 20% of women over the age of 40 get heart failure, but it seemed to be somehow more common than that. The other rationale was that radiation therapy does not actually affect the cardiomyocytes; they are very radiation resistant. And what radiation does is cause microvascular endothelial cells damage and inflammation, and that is felt to be fundamental in the pathophysiology for HFpEF.
So we thought we should look at this. I collaborated with a radiation oncologist and oncologists, and they were interested in looking at this because there's a lot of techniques now to reduce cardiac radiation exposure during radiation therapy, including proton beam therapy, and they're trying to prioritize who they use this new technology on. So what we did was start with a population-based study, all women who lived in Olmsted county who received radiation therapy for breast cancer in the contemporary era, where they're already using these dose reducing techniques. So we wanted to make it relevant to what's going on today. And so we started with a base cohort of all women. We matched patients' cases, it was a case-control study, so we matched cases and controls according to their age at the time of breast cancer, whether they had heart failure risk factors, like hypertension or diabetes, whether they got adjuvant chemotherapy, and tumor size, because we felt it was important that radiation could affect different parts of the heart, depending on whether it was right- or left-sided tumor.
And what we found is that the risk of heart failure increased with the mean cardiac radiation dose. We measured the mean cardiac radiation dose in every case and every control from their CT scans and their radiation plants. And as the radiation dose went up, the risk of heart failure went up, even matching or controlling for chemotherapy, which wasn't used that often in this group, or heart failure risk factors. And the vast majority of these cases were indeed HFpEF.
So we then looked at factors that happened in-between the radiotherapy and the onset of heart failure, making sure that this all wasn't just coronary artery disease, 'cause we know radiation can increase the risk of coronary artery disease. And indeed there were, only in about 18% of cases was there a new episode of coronary disease in the interim between the radiotherapy and the breast cancer. So, basically found that the mean cardiac radiation dose, even in today's era, does increase the risk of heart failure with preserved ejection fractions.
Dr Carolyn Lam: The things that stuck out to me ... it's population based. You did such a comprehensive study to really answer very key questions: dose of radiation, is it really just mediated by age and age-related risk factors, is it just about MI or could it be more microvascular disease? Congratulations, I really appreciated this paper. Some of the take-home messages are directly related to the treatment of breast cancer, isn't it? And about the importance of minimizing radiation dose if possible. I suppose one of the take-homes is, as well, for screening and watching out for heart failure. One thing though: how were these woman diagnosed with HEpEF? I mean, this is always the questions I get. How do you get diagnosed with HEpEF?
Dr Margaret Redfield: Right, well, first we started with looking to see if they had a ICD code for heart failure, and then we looked at each case of heart failure and determined if they either met Framingham criteria at the time of the diagnosis and the majority of them did. If they didn't actually meet the Framingham criteria, we looked to be sure there was a physician diagnosis of heart failure in the record and that they had supportive evidence of heart failure: echocardiographic findings, natriuretic peptide findings, and other clinical characteristics of heart failure.
And importantly, in the large control group from where we, you know, got our controls, people, a very large group of patients who did not get heart failure, we'd use natural language processing to look at all those records to make sure we weren't missing anybody who didn't have an ICD diagnosis or code for heart failure to make sure we weren't missing any cases of heart failure. So, we really tried to use very stringent methods to make sure we had true cases and control groups.
Dr Carolyn Lam: Indeed, and it actually goes back to Bonnie's paper as well, where we have to remind everyone that the diagnosis of HEpEF really starts with the symptomatology of heart failure in particular, that you so rigorously determined. I think just one last thing, Maggie: what do you think this implies now, for HEpEF? What do we do in general so the non-radiation-associated, do we believe more the Walter Paulus-Carsten Tschope hypothesis, and if so, what do we do?
Dr Margaret Redfield: Yes, well I think it really does support that hypothesis. We know that radiation therapy, again, we know what it does to the coronary microvascular endothelial cells and that's been elegantly worked out both in patients and in animal models. I think this really supports the Paulus hypothesis because this microvascular damage was able to produce heart failure, so I think that really supports that hypothesis. And there's been some studies showing decreased coronary flow reserve in HEpEF patients; it's very common. So I think indeed it does support that hypothesis and that the coronary microvasculature is key in the pathophysiology of HEpEF.
However it's a little scary to me because that sort of damage, once it's established, may be very hard to treat. You know, proangiogenic strategies in peripheral vascular disease have not yet yielded the benefits that we hoped for, so I think it's a tough therapeutic challenge that'll be very important to try to address in pre-clinical studies to try and figure out once the microvasculature is so damaged how do we treat that? How do we reverse that process?
Dr Carolyn Lam: Yeah. Words of wisdom. Maggie, thanks so much for inspiring, just all of us in this field. I just had to say that. You know, you are the reason that I am totally in love with HEpEF. (laughter)
Dr Margaret Redfield: (laughter)
Dr Carolyn Lam: So thank you so much for joining me today on the show. In fact, thank you to all my three guests.
You've been listening to Circulation on the Run. You must tell everyone about this episode, it is full of gems.
Thank you, and tune in next week.
Carolyn: Welcome to Circulation on the Run, your weekly podcast summary and backstage pass to The Journal and its editor's. I'm Dr. Carolyn Lam, associate editor from the National Heart Center and Duke National University of Singapore. Our Journal this week features important new data telling us that a common genetic variant risk score is associated with risk of drug induced QT prolongation and torsades de pointes.
First, let's give you your summary of this week's journal. The first paper provides both clinical and experimental data to show that the adipokine, retinal binding protein four promotes atherosclerosis. First author, Dr. Liu, corresponding author, Dr. Xia and colleagues from Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, China first evaluated the association between serum retinal binding four levels and the incidents of adverse cardiovascular events in a community based prospective cohort and then examined the effects of retinal protein four gain or loss of function on macrophage foam cell formation and atherogenesis in an apple lipase protein E deficient mouse model. They found, in the clinical cohort study, that base line serum retinal binding protein four level was an independent predictor of incidents of adverse cardiovascular events after adjustment for traditional risk factors.
In the experimental study's, they showed that retinal binding protein four promoted macrophage derived foam cell formation through the activation of scavenger receptor CD36 mediated cholesterol uptake. In turn dependent on June and terminal kinase and signal transducer and activator of transcription one, as well as upstream regulation by the tracing kinase CSRC. These findings, therefore, support the use of retinal binding protein four as a novel biomarker for the prediction of cardiovascular risk. The data also provide insight into the mechanism of action of retinal binding protein four in the path of physiology of atherosclerosis.
The next paper is the first clinical trial, looking at remote ischemic pre conditioning prior to carotid artery stinting in patients with severe carotid artery stenosis. Remote ischemic pre conditioning is a protective, systemic strategy by which cycles of bilateral limb ischemia are applied briefly to confer protection from subsequent severe ischemia and distant organs. First author, Dr. Zhao, corresponding authors, Dr. Ji, and colleagues from Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University in Beijing, China performed a proof of concept, single center, prospective, randomized control trial to assess whether remote ischemic preconditioning was safe and effective in attenuating ischemic injury related to carotid artery stinting in 189 patients with severe carotid artery stenosis. Results show that daily remote ischemic pre conditioning for two weeks, prior to carotid artery stenting, was feasible, safe, well tolerated, and may effectively attenuate secondary brain injury as evidence by a decreased incidence and reduced volumes of new ischemic legions on magnetic residence imaging performed within 48 hours post operation. The clinical implications are that if results are confirmed by future, larger studies, remote ischemic preconditioning may evolve into a nonpharmacological, neuro protective method for inhibiting carotid artery stenosis related cerebral ischemic events.
This potential for clinical translation in discussed in an accompanying editorial by Doctors Bell and Yellen, from University College, London.
The final paper discusses firefighting and the heart. What's the link? Well, cardiovascular events are the leading cause of death amongst firefighters and the risk is known to be substantially increased during fire suppression duties. In the current study, first author Dr. Hunter, corresponding author, Dr. Mills, and colleagues from University of Edinburgh in United Kingdom sought to understand this link better by assessing the effects of simulated fire suppression on measures of cardiovascular health in an open label, randomized cross over study of 19 healthy firefighters. These firefighters performed a standardized training exercise in a fire simulation facility or like duties for 20 minutes. Following each exposure, ex vivo thrombus formation, fibrinolysis, platelet activation and for armed blood flow in response to intra-arterial infusions of endothelium dependent and independent vasodilators were all measured. The authors found that exposure to extreme heat and physical exertion during fire suppression activated platelets, increased thrombus formation, impaired vascular function, and promoted myocardial ischemia and injury in healthy fire fighters. These finding provided pathogenic mechanisms to explain the association between fire suppression activity and acute myocardial infarction in fire fighters.
The implications of these findings for prevention are discussed in an accompanying editorial from Dr. Kales, of Harvard school of Public Health and Dr. Smith from Skidmore College and University of Illinois fire service institute.
Well, those were your summaries. Let's welcome our guests for our feature discussion.
Today's feature paper describes a pilot study that shows that a common genetic variant risk score, is associated with drug induced QT prolongation and torsades de pointes. This paper is so interesting to me because I found that the learning points, at least for me, really extended well beyond the trial itself. I'm so delighted to have with me the co corresponding authors, Dr. David Strauss from the US FDA, as well as Dr. Christopher Newton-Cheh from Massachusetts General Hospital. Welcome, gentlemen.
David: Thanks very much, glad to be here.
Christopher: Thank you, Carolyn.
Carolyn: So, I've always thought that common genetic variants identified via GWAS, for example, are individually very weak effects on medical traits. For example, systolic blood pressure or in this case, QT interval. But what I'm so impressed with this study is that you show, I think for the first time, that even these small effects can add up to clinically meaningful results that are testable or demonstrable in a trial. David, could you begin by telling us a little bit about this trial and what the primary results were.
David: In the study, we tested the hypothesis that a weighted combination of common genetic variants, contributing to the QT interval at base line, identified through prior GWAS studies, can predict individual response to multiple QT prolonging drugs. We performed a genetic analysis of 22 subjects and a secondary analysis of a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled cross over trial, that included three QT prolonging drugs, with 15 tie matched QT and plasma drug concentration measurements. This allowed us to carefully control for the inter individual differences in pharmacokinetics and just focus on the pharmacodynamics so the direct effect of the drug on the heart.
What we found was, there was a significant correlation between the weighted combination of common genetic variants, which we call the genetic QT score, and drug induced QT prolongation. More specifically, we found that the genetic QT score explained 30 percent of the variability in response to dofetilide, 23 percent in response to quinidine, and 27 in response to ranolazine.
We also investigated how response to one QT prolonging drug predicted the response to other QT prolonging drugs. There were significant correlations between all the drug/drug relationships with response to each drug explaining 24 to 29 percent of the variability in response to each of the other drugs. It's important to note that QT prolongation, by itself, is not harmful. The real concern is torsades de pointes, which can degenerate into ventricular fibrillation and cause sudden death. So, the test, irrelevant to the common genetic variants in predicting drug induced torsades, we then went on to examine a previously published, genome wide association study that included 215 patients with drug induced torsades, compared to 771 ancestry match controls and that prior study that was previously published had found that each individual common genetic variant did not reach genome wide significance, as you suggested, Carolyn. However, when we applied the weighted combination of common genetic variants, we found that the genetic QT risk score was associated with significantly increased risk of drug induced torsade, explaining 12 percent of the variation in risk.
Carolyn: So, my simplistic understanding was more or less there. That these genetic risks of these common variants kind of add up. I'm just curious ... Chris, do you think that this has implications for even other diseases? That's one question. And then secondly, I really appreciated your comment about using an intermediate trait, if you may, of QT interval versus looking at the disease itself of torsade de pointes. Could you give me comments on both these things?
Christopher: The study of intermediate traits, such as, quantitative traits like QT variability on the EKG are, I think very tractable for the study of genetic bases of underlying physiologic processes because we can study so many people. So the original genome wide association study that detected these individually weak genetic effects could only find them because we studied about 75,000 people who had had genome wide genome typing and QT intervals measured. It requires such large sample sizes to reach p values that are able to distinguish true positive associations from false positive associations, due to the multiple testing burden.
I think a challenge of what to do with these genetic effects once they've been reliably detected is that they do have weak effects and they influence intermediate traits. Nobody really cares whether their QT interval is three milliseconds longer, or three milliseconds shorter. What they care about is hard outcomes, or the likelihood that they'll have a toxic drug response. So, it was a natural follow on to that work to try to test these variants, and we knew that based on their weak effects individually on QT interval in the general population, that it was unlikely that they would individually explain a significant portion of either drug response or torsade. Which is why we aggregated the facts into the weighted score.
I think we tried to examine what we thought were the most proximal, clinically relevant outcomes. Specifically, drug response. QT drug response to drugs that are established to cause QT prolongation and arrhythmias. Whether the QT score will have meaningful or detectable impact on drugs that have much weaker effects on re polarization and risk of torsade, I think, would remain to be seen.
Carolyn: That's really remarkable.
David, how about your perspective of the implications of this? It's so unique that you're actually from the FDA so, why is this important to the FDA?
David: As Chris mentioned, the specific application we studied here, a drug induced QT prolongation and torsade have resulted in the withdrawal of several drugs from the market both in the US and worldwide. Many critical drugs remain on the market that are associated with QT prolongation and torsade…over 100 drugs, likely. What some people may not be familiar with is that at FDA we perform research to move new science into the drug review process and close the gap between scientific innovation and drug review. Like practicing clinicians, we seek to understand inter patient variabilities and we conduct research to better evaluate, benefit, and risk of medications. This is in line with the broader initiative ... the precision medicine initiative, which seeks to move away from the traditional “one size fits all” approach for medical therapy and instead, take into account specific characteristics of individual patients.
People are most familiar with this being applied in oncology and advances in pharmacogenomics have been more limited in other areas with the exception of the genetic bases of metabolism and pharmacokinetics where the traits are often controlled by one or a few genetic mechanisms, rather than the many mechanisms responsible for complex traits and diseases, as Chris discussed. As I mentioned earlier, what was relatively unique about this study is that we were able to control for the difference in pharmacokinetics and investigate the inter individual differences in the direct effect of drugs on the heart, the pharmacodynamics. We think it's very exciting that a combination of common genetic variants and aggregate can explain a significant portion of the inter individual variability and, as Chris mentioned, this is also important because the incidence of torsade is quite low. Only a small number of patients will develop drug induced torsade. It's possible that in the future analysis of a large number of common genetic variants that can be identified through genome wide association studies as in this case, may help to better define the personalized benefit risk profiles for individual patients.
Carolyn: You've really articulated that remarkably. That's exactly the excitement I think the entire editorial team shared when we read your paper. Thank you so much for it. Maybe just one last question thrown out to both of you, what's the next step? What's in the future.
Christopher: I think one next step, based on this proof of principle study, will be to try to test the impact of these genetic risk scores in real world clinical settings where individual patients with the diversity of different comorbidities and different drug exposures are also receiving QT prolonging drugs. Because that will have the biggest relevance for our patients who faced increased risk of drug toxicity.
David: The issue of cardiac safety of drugs is something that is very important to us at the FDA and we have some parallel initiatives that, in collaboration with other global drugs ... regulatory agencies and industry and academic collaborators ... we are working to develop new cardiac safety evaluation paradigms for new drugs, or existing drugs, that could even be applied in the preclinical setting and really focus on the mechanistic base, pro arrhythmic risk. So, we should have more exciting work coming forward in the near future for better prediction and individualized prediction of benefit and risk of medication.
Carolyn: Thank you, listeners, for joining us. You've been listening to Circulation on the Run. Join us next week.