According to a new study, canakinumab injections can prevent heart attacks and lower cancer risks, especially lung cancer. Canakinumab is an anti-inflammatory drug that has proven to be effective for heart attack survivors.

The research team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston wanted to know if this powerful anti-inflammatory drug gave better results than treatments with statins, which are commonly used for heart attack prevention as it lowers cholesterol. However, Doctors say that canakinumab opens a new frontier for the treatment of cardiovascular events.

Image credit: Pond5 / Daily Burn
Image credit: Pond5 / Daily Burn

“We suddenly know we can address the inflammation itself, the same way we learned almost 25 years ago that we could address cholesterol. It’s very exciting,” said the study’s leader, Dr. Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The Cantos Study

Statins are the main drugs used to prevent heart attacks. However, a quarter of people who survive a heart attack would have another one within five years even if they take statins on a regular basis. That is because statins lower cholesterol levels, but the inflammation within the heart’s arteries remains unchecked.

Many heart attacks occur even if people have stable cholesterol levels, then what it should be addressed is the chronic risk of inflammation that leads to clogged arteries, and that is why canakinumab has proven to be effective.

To test the drug, doctors evaluated 10,000 patients who have already had a heart attack and a positive blood test for inflammation. This was known as the Cantos Study, and it lasted four years. All these participants received high doses of statins, canakinumab or placebo. They were administered by injections every three months.

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What are the benefits of canakinumab

The patients who received canakinumab injections reported a 15 percent reduction in the risks of fatal and non-fatal heart attack and strokes. They also had a 30 percent decrease in the probabilities of needing expensive interventional procedures, such as bypass surgery and inserting stents. Canakinumab is usually used to treat rare and severe inflammation cases. As well, doctors found that it prevents the progression of cancer. The chances of having lung cancer are cut by 75 perfect with this drug too.

The research team still don’t know why it is so good preventing the disease. They are planning future studies to understand the benefit of canakinumab on cancer.

“It tells us that by leveraging an entirely new way to treat patients – targeting inflammation – we may be able to improve outcomes for certain very high-risk populations,” said Dr. Paul Ridker, who led the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

On the other hand, it is important to notice that these patients didn’t have a better death rate if compared to those who received the placebo injections. The cholesterol levels of the patients treated with canakinumab didn’t change either. Though it helps reduce certain risks, canakinumab increases the chances of dying from a severe infection in about one for every 1,000 people treated.

Source: The Guardian