VCU receives federal grants to support heart research

Two clinical trials will evaluate anti-inflammatory therapy to prevent heart failure

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Virginia Commonwealth University has received two new grants with a combined total of $1.32 million from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to conduct clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of a new anti-inflammatory therapy and a similar regimen for the treatment of heart attack and heart failure.

Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., James C. Roberts Professor in Cardiology in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine, and the VCU Pauley Heart Center, and Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., assistant and research professor in the VCU School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, will serve as co-principal investigators on the two clinical trials.

The first grant, which will award $660,000 over three years, is a multi-center clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of targeted anti-inflammatory therapy in 100 patients with a severe form of heart attack known as ST-elevation myocardial infarction. Previous studies by Abbate and Van Tassell, have shown that this approach may reduce the risk of heart failure after a heart attack. The study is titled, “Interleukin-1 blockade in acute myocardial infarction.”

The second grant, which awards $660,000 over two years, will fund a single-center clinical trial to evaluate a similar regimen in 60 patients who have heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, also known as diastolic heart failure. According to Abbate and Tassell, approximately half of all heart failure patients show normal (or preserved) ejection fraction, which refers to how much blood the heart is able to pump with each contraction. While numerous medications are approved for the treatment of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, there are no approved treatments for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. The study is titled, “Interleukin-1 blockade in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.”

Last August, a separate R34 grant was awarded to Abbate and Van Tassell to explore Interleukin-1 blockade in a separate population of heart failure patients. R34, the NIH Clinical Trial Planning Grant Program, supports development of Phase III clinical trials.

The grant project numbers are: 1R34HL118348, 1R34HL121402 and 1R34HL117026.

During the past six years, Abbate and Van Tassell have collaborated on numerous basic science and clinical trials sponsored by the American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry that explore the link between inflammation and heart disease.

Since 2008, the pair have received a total of more than $3 million in funding and have published more than 40 papers.


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