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Circulation on the Run

Jul 17, 2018

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.

                                                In this day and age of endovascular treatment for acute ischemic stroke, does time to treatment really matter? Well, we will be discussing results of the MR CLEAN Registry from real-world clinical practice, coming right up after these summaries.

                                                The first original paper this week describes the first mouse model of progerin-induced atherosclerosis acceleration. Progerin is an aberrant protein that accumulates with age, causes a rare genetic disease known as Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. Patients with Progeria Syndrome have ubiquitous progerin expression and exhibit accelerated aging and atherosclerosis, dying in their early teens mainly from myocardial infarction or stroke. The mechanisms underlying progerin-induced atherosclerosis remain unexplored, in part due to the lack of appropriate animal models. First author Dr Hamczyk, corresponding author Dr Andrews, and colleagues from CNIC in Madrid performed an elegant series of experiments and generated not only the first mouse model of progerin-induced acceleration of atherosclerosis, but also provided the first direct evidence that progerin expression restricted to vascular smooth muscle cells but not to macrophages was sufficient to induce premature atherosclerosis and death. Progerin-induced loss of vascular smooth muscle cells caused atherosclerotic plaque destabilization that led to myocardial infarction. Ubiquitous and vascular smooth muscle cell specific progerin expression increased LDL retention in aortic media, likely accelerating atherosclerosis.

                                                The next original paper implicates dysregulation of mitochondrial dynamics as a therapeutic target in human and experimental pulmonary arterial hypertension. Now, mitotic fission is increased in pulmonary arterial hypertension. The fission mediator, dynamin-related protein 1, or Drp1, must complex with adaptor proteins to cause fission. In the current paper from co-first authors Dr Chen and Dasgupta, corresponding author Dr Archer from Queens University in Ontario Canada, and colleagues, the authors examined the role of two recently discovered but poorly understood Drp1 adaptor proteins known as mitochondrial dynamics protein of 49 and 51 kilodalton. They found pathological elevation of these mitochondrial dynamic proteins in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells in both human and experimental pulmonary arterial hypertension that accelerated mitotic fission and supported rapid cell proliferation. Mitochondrial dynamics protein's expression was epigenetically upregulated by a decreased expression of microRNA-34a-3p. Circulatory microRNA-34a-3p expression was decreased in both patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension and preclinical models, silencing the mitochondrial dynamics proteins or augmenting microRNA-34a-3p regressed experimental pulmonary arterial hypertension, thus, proving to be potential new therapeutic targets for pulmonary arterial hypertension.

                                                Dyslipidemia guidelines currently recommend that non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B, or apoB, are secondary targets to the primary target of LDL cholesterol. However, how frequently does non-HDL cholesterol guideline targets change management, and what is the utility of apoB targets after meeting LDL and non-HDL targets?

                                                Well, answers are provided in the next paper from first author Dr Sathiyakumar, corresponding author Dr Martin, and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. These authors analyzed more than 2,500 adults in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as well as more than 126,000 patients from the Very Large Database of Lipids Study with apoB. They identified all individuals as well as those with high-risk clinical features, including coronary disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome who met the very high and high-risk guidelines targets of LDL cholesterol of less than 70 and less than 100 mg/dL, respectively, and this was measured using either the Friedewald estimation or a novel, more accurate method. They found that after using the more accurate method of estimating LDL cholesterol, guidelines suggested non-HDL targets could alter management in only 1 to 2% of individuals, including those with coronary disease and other high risk clinical features.

                                                However, using the Friedewald estimated LDL cholesterol gave a much higher percentage. Among all individuals with both LDL cholesterol less than 100 and non-HDL cholesterol less than 130 mg/dL, only 0-0.4% had an apoB above or equal to 100 mg/dL. Thus, the utility of current non-HDL targets appears to be contingent on the accuracy of LDL cholesterol estimation. When using a novel, more accurate estimation method to assess LDL cholesterol, the non-HDL cholesterol is infrequently above current guidelines' suggested targets after the LDL target is met. Current guidelines suggest that apoB targets also provide only modest utility after cholesterol targets are met. These findings were robust to high-risk clinical features, sex, fasting status, and presence of lipid-lowering therapies.

                                                The final paper tells us that HIV infection increases the risk of developing peripheral artery disease. Dr Beckman from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and colleagues studied almost 92,000 participants in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study from 2003-2014 over a median follow-up of nine years. They excluded participants with known prior peripheral artery disease or prevalent cardiovascular disease. They found that infection with HIV was associated with a 19% increased risk of incident peripheral artery disease beyond that explained by traditional atherosclerotic risk factors. Once peripheral artery disease had developed, HIV infection increased the risk of mortality compared to uninfected patients. Whereas for those with sustained CD4 cell counts above 500, there was no excess risk of incident peripheral artery disease events compared to uninfected people. Furthermore, worsening HIV infection as measured by CD4 cell count and HIV viral load was associated with increased incident peripheral artery disease and mortality. In summary, HIV infection increased the risk of developing peripheral artery disease and mortality. The findings also suggest that aggressive antiretroviral therapy to reduce viral load and increase CD4 cell counts may reduce the risk of developing peripheral artery disease. Furthermore, clinicians should solicit clinical complaints and physical signs consistent with peripheral artery disease to facilitate the diagnosis of peripheral artery disease in patients with HIV and ensure the addition of guideline-based anti-atherosclerotic therapies in these patients.

                                                Well, that wraps it up for our summaries. Now for our feature discussion.

                                                When it comes to acute ischemic stroke treatment, we've learned from trials of intravenous thrombolytics that time is brain. But what about the situation with endovascular treatment of strokes? Also, what's the situation like in the real world? Well, today's featured paper really provides precious data telling us about time-to-endovascular treatment and outcomes in acute ischemic stroke. I am so delighted to have with us the first and corresponding author of the MR CLEAN Registry, Dr Maxim Mulder from Erasmus University Medical Center, as well as our editorialist, Dr Micheal Hill, from University of Calgary, and our associate editor, Dr Graeme Hankey, from University of Western Australia, all here to discuss this hugely important topic.

                                                Maxim, could we start with you? So, MR CLEAN Registry means there was a MR CLEAN trial. Could you tell us a little bit more about your paper?

Dr Maxim Mulder:           Sure, well to start with, I think it's important to make sure all the people know the difference between the MR CLEAN trial and the registry since of course the trial was to show whether the intra-arterial treatment is effective when it comes to acute ischemic stroke treatments and then, of course, for people treated within six hours. When the MR CLEAN trial finished we continued in the Netherlands with all the participating centers from the trial to gather all the data from everybody who is treating in the whole country with the intra-arterial treatment, but they're not anymore in the light of the trial but in the clinical practice. We've had a lot of trials, but we don't have a lot of clinical practice date yet of the intra-arterial treatment, so that's where it all started.

                                                So, what we found is we consider our data, so with the least possible selections or the only selection was basically to treat within six and a half hours and have patients that had a proven large vessel occlusion that were treated in the Netherlands and of course as we also know from when intravenous therapy was introduced that what happens in clinical trials doesn't necessarily happen when a new treatment is introduced into clinical practice. There are less strict criteria for patients to get treated, and you know everybody, of course, there is a lot of debate about which patients should be treated. In clinical trials it is very strictly coordinated, but in clinical practice there's a lot more room to have an interpretation and also treat a different population. So, we also see that our population is somewhat older and has more comorbidities than in all the trials. Also what we found, of course, our most important finding was that when compared to all the trials or the large trials combined together in the Emberson analysis about time that when we look at the influence or the association of time with functional outcome of intra-arterial treatment that this association is clearly stronger than we found in the previous, the trial data.

                                                So, I think that's a very important finding. Also, for everybody who's now treating this patient in clinical practice.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Exactly. I mean this is really stunning results. If I could paraphrase from your paper, every hour delay in time from stroke onset to the start of endovascular treatment resulted in a 5.3% decreased probability of functional independence and a 2.2% increase in mortality. This is stunning. Thank you, thank you for publishing these results with us in Circulation. I would like to ask Michael, I love the point you made in the editorial that time of stroke onset is really quite a difficult thing to determine. Could you tell us your thoughts about that, Michael?

Dr Micheal Hill:                  I mean, it's something like 15-20% of the time stroke is unwitnessed, either because stroke occurs in sleep and the patient is discovered with their stroke symptoms on awakening. Or the patient is simply alone and has their stroke unwitnessed by any bystander. Even in so-called witness stroke, there are probably significant errors in determining the exact time of stroke onset because it's an emergency, and everybody's flustered and time anchors are not necessarily well known. And, so, I think it's an important point that the actual measurement of time is challenging, yet it's still an easier clinical tool for us to use in gauging the extent or evolution of stroke. That's the most important thing to point out here is that this population effect that Max has observed in the MR CLEAN registry is certainly concordant with clinical trial data.

                                                I certainly think it's correct, and, as you pointed out in your comments, dramatic, but a really important issue is that for the individual patient, there's quite a lot of variance in the evolution of stroke. So, whereas, on a population basis, it's absolutely true that the average time from estimated time of stroke onset to treatment initiation is absolutely critical; in some patients, the individual might be still a good candidate for treatment even in late time windows, and some patients, even after a couple hours, the damage is already extensive, and they may not be good candidates for treatment. It still requires individual decision making, and it still leaves a lot of room for clinical judgment largely based on imaging.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                True, and I think you've really succinctly put that solid take-home message in the title really, which is acute ischemic stroke biology really demands fast treatment. I think that's the one thing that we'd really like clinicians to come away with. You agree?

Dr Micheal Hill:                  Absolutely. Especially, I think, the advantage of looking at whole populations and large, I mean this is a large registry, the MR CLEAN registry, and the group should be congratulated because it's clearly the biggest registry in the world right now of available data, and it's only getting larger week by week as they carry on with their work. You know the whole Netherlands group, the MR CLEAN group, are a fantastic group, but absolutely right, on a population basis, we absolutely have to get our systems in place so that on average we're treating patients incredibly fast. On an individual basis, the clinicians and the teams treating an individual patient still need to make judgments about that patient's eligibility for treatment. It's easy when the times are fast, so if you're an hour and a half from onset, nearly everybody's gonna be a good candidate for treatment, but as time elapses you need to make judgements on the basis of imaging.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Well put. You know, Graeme, you're over there in Australia. What are your take-home messages about how generalizable these findings are to places outside perhaps of the Netherlands?

Dr Graeme Hankey:        I think you're asking about the external validity. I think the internal validity is certainly there. As Michael said, this is the largest registry that we have that's been published data on this before. It's certainly novel, and we're very confident that the results are valid, although this is an observational study and not a randomized trial. The association between time and outcome seems to be independent of the major patient factors that may influence time to endovascular therapy. For example, younger people who are less frail and they're alert and they're mobile can get to treatment earlier. So, you might say, well of course they're gonna have a better outcome. But these factors were adjusted for. And, of course, there are procedural factors that could influence the association between time and outcome, but we're very confident in the results and the novelty of them in supporting and building on the randomized trial data.

                                                We're also very confident in the registry and the nature of the population. The results are likely to be generalizable beyond the Netherlands population where this was conducted in routine clinical practice, certainly across Caucasian populations that are similar and with similar stroke interventional and assessment protocols, and I would hope to see this sort of study validated externally in other populations. But, also, as Michael said, I think this study not just highlights the importance of time as a factor and its implications for systems of care and recognizing people with disabling stroke and ensuring they’re assisted urgently to the appropriate imaging but also to acknowledge that time isn't the only factor. And as Michael has alluded to, our brain tissue has different collateral circulations and different probable genetic factors and metabolic factors. So, someone with a stroke at one hour, it might be all over for them. Whereas, another person with a stroke at 24 hours ago, they might have salvageable tissue.

                                                So, although, generally time is an important prognosticator as we've learned here, there are probably other factors that need to be considered and accounted for. But this certainly takes us a step forward, and, in answer to your question, I think we have confidence in its generalizability.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Thank you Graeme. Maxim, in line with that, are there any next steps you plan?

Dr Maxim Mulder:           In light of the most recent trials, the DAWN and DEFUSE 3 trial about 6 to 25-hour, 24-hour window, I think that both of the trials are very exciting, and they shine a new light into a new set of patients that are still able to offer a great benefit intra-arterial treatment. In my opinion, the most important thing, especially in those two trials, those are highly selective patients, especially selected on all the extra imaging parameters, and I guess that there's a whole larger population that could still benefit in this time window and that's also one of the things we're currently studying in one of our new trials in the Netherlands in the MR CLEAN-LATE trial, and that is randomizing patients who are having a large vascular occlusion 6 to 24 hours, and the only extra criteria they should meet is they should have at least a little bit of collateral circulation on the ischemic brain side.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Michael and Graeme, what do you think are the priorities for next steps in research.

Dr Micheal Hill:                  I guess overall in the field, I don't think there's any doubt that faster treatment is better. What we need to do across the world is make sure that everybody's receiving it on a system-wide basis. Right? I think there needs to be a lot of more careful work done on getting systems of care in place to make sure that patients are getting the treatment they can get. We have very many weaknesses. Some are related to lack of accreditation. Some are related to the resources required to get people treated quickly. Some are related to continuing resistance in some specialties to even giving intravenous thrombolytic drugs. So, I think faster treatment in general for acute stroke is a theme; it's not just limited to endovascular treatment. It's treatment for patients for intravenous thrombolysis. It's also actually true for TIA and minor stroke. We've had recent data on fast antiplatelet therapy, so, it's not an emergency in the same way in terms of minutes, but it's still a general theme of acute stroke care.

                                                We need to be like the Ferraris and the Formula One, right? And get ourselves moving. That's a big challenge for people. Right? It's a big stress on systems. But, I think there are other examples in medicine. We've seen this evolution in acute coronary care, and we've seen the evolution in acute trauma care. In many ways, the next things that need to really continue to happen are publications like this and getting the message out that people need to start changing their mind. The biggest thing that I find when I talk to people or talk at meetings or talk to administrators is that they say, "Well, we can't do this many CTs that fast. We can't respond that fast." And the answer is actually that you can't change the biology of the disease, so if you decide you wanna treat stroke patients, you better figure out how to change your systems. It's a question of will here rather than trying to bend the disease to the system.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Wonderfully put. Can't change the biology so we better change the systems. How about you, Graeme? Any last words?

Dr Graeme Hankey:        Just to concur with Michael’s comments there and Max's underlying theme that time is very important. And as Michael alludes to, it's not just acute ischemic stroke due to large vascular disease, it's also acute intracerebral hemorrhage. We're learning now really if we're gonna have an effect in the bleeding brain probably we have to do that within the first three hours and maybe not be waiting so late. And as Michael alludes to, someone with a minor ischemic stroke who's had a hot volcano gone off in their neck, as you know, ruptured atherosclerotic plaque, it's like those volcanoes in Hawaii, they're gonna keep going off again. And the risk is 5% in the next two days and 10% in the next week. So, a TIA and a mild ischemic stroke, it is a medical emergency to find the cause and to get it treated, and that's why the synopsis of this message from Max's study is that people, if they do avail themselves of acute assessment early, even if they don't have a large vessel occlusion causing an ischemic stroke, they may actually have their intracerebral hemorrhage treated quickly or, more evidence based at the moment, their TIA or mild ischemic stroke have the cause ascertained and treated emergently and reduce that early risk of recurrence should they survive.

Dr Carolyn Lam:                Excellent points. Thank you so much, gentlemen. This has been an amazing podcast.

                                                Thank you so much for joining us today. Don't forget to tune in again next week, listeners.