SALT LAKE CITY In a finding that could save thousands of lives a year, University of Utah School of Medicine researchers have shown that a blood vessel disorder leading to unpredictable, sometimes fatal, hemorrhagic strokes, seizures, paralysis or other problems is treatable with the same statin drugs that millions of people take to control high cholesterol.
If the results of a study in mice are confirmed in a pilot trial with people, statins could provide a safe, inexpensive treatment for cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM), a disorder with no known drug therapy, according to U of U cardiologist Dean Y. Li, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Molecular Medicine Program and corresponding author of a study published Jan. 18 in Nature Medicine online.
"Brain surgery or radiation treatment has been the only option for CCM patients. But because of the risks in those operations, neurosurgeons are reluctant to perform them unless the patient is in immediate danger," Li said. "Our study proposes a potential strategy for a simple drug therapy that could cost only a few dollars a month at a pharmacy. However, our animal studies must first be evaluated in a pilot clinical trial being initiated."
Kevin J. Whitehead, M.D., also a cardiologist, assistant professor of internal medicine, and first author of the study, now is recruiting 50 to 100 people diagnosed with CCM to join a pilot trial of statins.
CCM is a disorder in which blood vessels in the brain become dilated and weakened, and leak blood, causing strokes, headaches, seizures or other problems. Diagnosing CCM can be problematic. Some people are diagnosed after experiencing symptoms and undergoing an MRI; others find out they have CCM during an MRI for an unrelated problem. An estimated 25 percent of people with CCM experience no symptoms and never know they have it. In worst-case scenarios, "people don't know they have CCMs until they suffer from an acute brain attack," Li
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University of Utah Health Sciences