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Circulation on the Run

Aug 20, 2018

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Welcome to Circulation on the Run, your weekly podcast summary and backstage pass to the journal and it's editors. I'm Dr Carolyn Lam, associate editor from the National Heart Center and Duke National University of Singapore.

                                                Can we get better at predicting clinical benefit of PCSK9 inhibition based on the severity and extent of coronary artery disease? Well coming right up after these summaries we have an important discussion of an analysis from the FOURIER trial, so stay tuned.

                                                The first original paper this week suggests that targeting visceral adiposity may be the crucial step to limit age-related cardiac remodeling and to promote healthy cardiac aging. Co-first authors Drs Sawaki and Czibik, corresponding author Dr Derumeaux, from INSERM France, and their colleagues, hypothesize that since aging induces cardiac structural and functional changes, linked to increase deposition of extracellular matrix proteins including osteopontin, well osteopontin may play a role in myocardial aging.

                                                To test this hypothesis, they studied osteopontin-deficient mice and their wild-type litter mates at two and 14 months of age in terms of cardiac structure, function, histology and key molecular markers. They found that during aging, visceral adipose tissue represented the main source of ostepontin and altered heart structure and function via its profibrotic secretome. Furthermore, interventions targeting osteopontin, such as visceral adipose tissue removal and osteopontin deficiency, rescued the heart and induced a selective modulation of fibroblast senescence. This work uncovers ostepontin's role in the context of myocardial aging and suggests that osteopontin may be a potential new therapeutic target for a healthy cardiac aging.

                                                The next study shows that higher triglyceride rich lipoprotein cholesterol may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and potential therapeutic target. First author Dr Vallejo-Vaz, corresponding author Dr Ray from Imperial College London, and their colleagues assess the relationship between triglyceride-rich lipoprotein cholesterol and cardiovascular risk and whether this risk was modifiable among patients receiving statins in the TNT trial. They found that higher levels of triglyceride rich lipoprotein cholesterol were associated with a significantly higher rate of cardiovascular events among coronary patients treated with statins. Statin therapy reduced triglyceride-rich lipoprotein cholesterol and to a greater extent among those treated with a higher statin dose.

                                                Based on their post hoc analysis of the TNT trial, they found that more intensive statin therapy with atorvastatin 80 milligrams, compared to atorvastatin 10 milligrams, resulted in a significantly greater cardiovascular risk reduction among patients with higher triglyceride-rich lipoprotein cholesterol. These results were consistent for higher triglycerides and directionally concordant for non-HDL cholesterol. A higher percentage reduction in triglyceride-rich lipoprotein cholesterol was associated with lower cardiovascular risk independent of LDL cholesterol reduction. Thus, these findings suggest that triglyceride-rich lipoprotein cholesterol is not only a cardiovascular risk marker, but also potentially a therapeutic target.

                                                Late gadolinium enhancement on cardiac magnetic resonance imaging represents fibrosis and is seen in 60% of adult patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. However, what about in children and adolescents with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy? First author Dr Raja from University of Copenhagen in Denmark, corresponding author Dr Ho from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and their colleagues looked at cardiac magnetic imaging data from 195 children and adolescents with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Late gadolinium enhancement was present in 46% of patients with overt hypertrophy as opposed to 60% typically represented in an adult population of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. On the other hand, late gadolinium enhancement was not seen in mutation carriers without left ventricular hypertrophy.

                                                In patients who underwent serial imaging, increases in late gadolinium enhancement, left ventricular mass, and left atrial size were detected over two and a half years. Thus these findings in children provide additional insights into the biology and natural history of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and confirmed that fibrosis is a significant part of the disease process in both children and adults.

                                                Whether the adult mammalian heart harbors cardiac stem cells for the regeneration of cardiomyocytes is an important yet contentious topic in the field of cardiovascular regeneration. This week's paper adds to the growing knowledge in this area. First author Dr Li, corresponding author Dr Zhou from Chinese Academy of Sciences and their colleagues developed a new genetic lineage tracing system to label all nonmyocyte populations that contain putative cardiac stem cells. Using dual lineage tracing system, they assessed if non-myocytes generated any new myocytes during embryonic development, adult homeostasis and after myocardial infarction. Skeletal muscles were also examined after injury and acted as internal controls.

                                                By using this stem cell marker free and dual recombinases mediated cell tracking approach, the author showed that new myocytes arose from nonmyocytes in the embryonic heart, but not in the adult heart during homeostasis or after myocardial infarction. As positive controls, the same lineage tracing system detected new myocytes derived from nonmyocytes in the skeletal muscle after injury. Thus, this study provides in vivo genetic evidence for non-myocyte to myocyte conversion in the embryonic but not the adult heart. This study also provides a new genetic strategy to identify endogenous stem cells, if any, in other organ systems for tissue repair and regeneration.

                                                Well, that wraps it up for our summaries this week, now for our feature discussion.

                                                Are there subsets of patients that derive greater clinical risk reduction with the PCSK9 inhibitors? Well we're gonna find out about that right now with a discussion of our feature paper entitled the “Clinical Benefit of Evolocumab by Severity and Extent of Coronary Artery Disease.” So pleased to have with us Dr Marc Sabatine from the TIMI Study Group, who is the first and corresponding author of today's feature paper, as well as our editorialist, Dr Roger Blumenthal from Johns Hopkins University. And of course, we have a familiar voice, a very important editor of our digital strategies and that's Dr Amit Khera from UT Southwestern.

                                                Welcome everyone, I think I'd really like to start with maybe asking Roger to paint the background of the importance of this paper. Simply because I just love the title of your editorial, which is “Realizing the Value of PCSK9 Inhibitors: Are We Closer to Finding the Sweet Spot?” I think that really encapsulates it. So Roger, your thoughts?

Dr Roger Blumenthal:     As Amit Khera knows, I'm a golfer, so when you think about the sweet spot on the club, and we know that PCSK9 inhibitors are a great story of translation from bench to bedside, and we also know that the high cost of the therapy presents a challenge. So what Dr Sabatine and colleagues did was to try to identify the sweet spot for its most effective use and that was a pleasure to comment on Dr Sabatine's excellent study.

Dr Marc Sabatine:            I think taking a step back I would say from pure biologic perspective, we know that lowering LDL cholesterol will reduce events and that's true and primary and secondary prevention and so if you have therapies that were safe and inexpensive, then I think you wouldn't need to really look for that sweet spot cause it would be all sweet if you will to extend the analogy. But Roger's absolutely right that when you have therapies that are then expensive, then you have to decide, okay in which patients will I get the biggest bang for my buck? And that's a very legitimate question to ask.

                                                And so in FOURIER, overall the trial was positive but as we look for subgroups we say, "Can we find individuals who enjoy a greater absolute risk reduction?" Because therefore the benefit cost ratio is gonna be particularly favorable. And so we approach that in a couple different ways. First you can look for just predictors of baseline risk, so if someone has twice the baseline risk and the same relative risk reduction, you should get about twice the absolute risk reduction and therefore the number needed to treat would be cut in half. And so based on our experience from other TIMI trials and other datasets, we looked at three features that have identified patients with higher baseline risks.

                                                Amongst those with a history of MI which is in and of itself a heterogeneous group. And so those features were patients with a more recent MI, those with multiple prior MIs and those with known residual multivessel coronary disease. And all three features in the FOURIER dataset, not surprisingly, were predictors of risk with patients having an average about a 50% higher baseline risk. But what was particularly nice was that the subgroups also identified patients who had greater relative risk reduction. And so when you couple the two, the higher baseline risk with the greater relative risk reduction, that translated into greater absolute risk reduction then in each of these high-risk groups, the absolute risk reductions over three years or for CV death, MI, and stroke was around 3% versus around 1% for the low-risk groups.

                                                And so that changes the number needed to treat by a factor of three.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Wow, that's so cool. Amit, do you think you could just give us a sneak peek into the editors’ discussions when you saw this paper?

Dr Amit Khera:                  This was an easy one, it's clearly a very important paper and if you step back 10,000-foot view, these drugs were initially approved based on LDL lowering and people were using them without knowledge of whether or not they actually lowered events. Marc's group and others have now shown us that certainly they do lower events, but really the next most important thing is application. Who should we use them in and when should they be used and where might they be most effective and I think it was said out in the introduction of this paper, this idea of personalized medicine. And I think this really is an important step forward, not just for PCSK9 field but in general, how we should be thinking about drugs, about balancing cost and benefits and who would benefit most.

                                                So maybe one analogy, I think PCSK9 was not prescribed as much as they had been predicted given costs and other considerations and maybe with analysis like this they've hit it out of the rough back on the fairway, I threw that in for you, Roger. And I do have one question for Marc, which is this is clearly important to better define who would benefit the most and I guess in terms of action abilities, the goal here to provide guidance for clinicians where, you know, if I'm seeing a patient this morning I would take this into account or is this something larger where we recently saw with alirocumab, they changed pricing based on sub-group analysis of a higher risk group. How do you think we should move forward with this type of information?

Dr Marc Sabatine:            I’ll get back to the point I raised earlier, I do want to underscore that I think that the true biologic notion is that all these patients, sub-types of secondary prevention or primary prevention all benefit from LDL lowering. So I wouldn't want people to walk out with the notion that it's the only subset that would benefit and really from a population level, obviously Roger's in a better position to speak about this, but sort of shifting the population LDL lower in general would have a huge impact on the risk for cardiovascular disease. But to your question Amit, looking in for a patient in front of you, I think it's quite fair to say right now there's this kind of tug of war back and forth between payers and clinicians.

                                                Clinicians saying, "I have a patient in front of me, they have known atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, I wanna lower their risk, I wanna manage their risk factors and I wanna get their LDL cholesterol lower and I have a bunch of great tools in front of me." Statin for sure is the foundation, maybe acetamide and PCSK9 inhibitors. And then payers saying, "Well wait a minute, these are expensive drugs and so we're gonna try to restrict that and create a lot of hoops for clinicians to jump through." And so I would rather than wasting all that time back and forth, I think it is logical to say, "What are the high-risk groups?" Where we can agree there's the large enough absolute risk reduction that for a given cost, that makes sense.

                                                Allow there to be alignment for that and have clinicians just be able to write a script and have it filled rather than wasting a lot of time with preauthorization and letters back and forth.

Dr Amit Khera:                  That's a great point, maybe I'll just take one follow-up, which is now trying to sift through all the high-risk groups and they end up maybe becoming a bit of a Venn diagram. I know in Roger's editorial he talked about the other FOURIER analysis with PAD and there's more groups to come or do we have enough of a starting place where we think we have enough for decision making?

Dr Marc Sabatine:            I would say there are a variety of groups, there is some overlapping even in the paper then we looked at the union of those three high-risk features, which identified about two thirds of the patients who were enrolled in the trial with a history of MI. But you're right, the other slices of the data that will also identify high risk groups, PAD is a particularly good one because most of the therapy for those patients has focused on antithrombotic therapy, which always will have some downside for increased bleeding, whereas risk factor modification in this case has no downside. So that's a very high-risk group, it certainly is important to focus on. But I think within the MI subset, this is a great place to start the other analyses we're doing.

                                                And probably after we've sort of finished the series of, if you will, these kind of univariant slices, then we'll try to put that together into a more comprehensive picture.

Dr Roger Blumenthal:     We tried to say that we still need the formal cost-effective analyses in these specific high-risk groups, but it seems most reasonable to focus on engaging in shared decision making now with our patients about PCSK9 inhibitor use and those with a recent ACS and the basis of Odyssey Outcomes and we're awaiting the final publication of that. Symptomatic peripheral arterial disease, which Marc previously published in Circulation, and then looking at these high-risk features that was the subject of this article, those with a more recent MI within the past two years, multiple prior MIs and residual multivessel coronary disease.

                                                And one of the things that we especially found interesting was among the more than 8,000 individuals without a high-risk feature, the event rates were nearly unchanged in the evolocumab versus placebo groups. So I think that's very important, but one other point that we have to keep in mind is that the focus of the last set of guidelines and probably the next cholesterol guidelines that likely will be out in November, will have a large component of the shared decision making and we need to see where the cost comes down, whether these companies that make these medications will be able to significantly lower the cost in a reproduceable manner and patients and clinicians will have to jointly decide what to do, do we add acetamide? Do we add a PCSK9 inhibitor?

                                                But we finished our editorial saying that all clinicians and patients should currently pursue a comprehensive lifestyle and medical regimen for secondary prevention. We all have to remember that and if a person's LDL, a high-risk individual is at least 70 with high-risk features and certainly above 100 on maximum tolerated statin therapy, it's important to strongly consider a PCSK9 inhibition and it'll be very interesting to see what the final wording is when the ACC/AHA cholesterol guidelines come out in November.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Amit, would you like to add any further take-home for the clinicians listening in?

Dr Amit Khera:                  I just first want to congratulate both of these discussions today, I think the paper was so incredibly important and I think Roger's group really helped frame it well in the field. The one thing I'd say is this is a moving target, we have some early guidance now that I do think is actionable, so I actually have clinic in about an hour and I'm sure I'll be thinking about this as I think about how to apply PCSK9. Which groups might benefit most, so I do think this is actionable now, I think the points that were made about cost effective analysis, how do we bundle all these concepts or high risk patients into maybe an algorithm and how do the guidelines interpret this as a moving target. We'll wait to see, but I do think there's some important actionable information even now for our clinical patients.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                I just love that, and you know that is just so much in line with the ethos of what Circulation is about now. We really, really love the papers that you have to pick up because they're of immediate applicability to your clinical practice.

                                                Well audience, you heard it right here. Thank you so much for joining us this week and of course don't forget to tune in again next week.