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New Drug Boosts 'Good' Cholesterol in Study Patients

TUESDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- A treatment currently being studied may prevent progression of atherosclerosis, a condition caused by the build-up of plaque in artery walls that can lead to heart attack, according to new research.

In conducting the study, published in the Sept. 12 issue of The Lancet, researchers followed 130 patients with atherosclerosis who were randomly assigned to be treated with either the experimental heart drug dalcetrapib, or an inactive placebo over the course of two years. In the double-blind study, neither the researchers nor the patients knew who was taking the heart drug and who was taking the placebo.

While statin drugs are commonly used to lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, dalcetrapib raises HDL or "good" cholesterol in order to reduce the risk, the researchers explained.

To determine the efficacy of dalcetrapib, the researchers used non-invasive imaging technology. Through MRI, the researchers found the patients on dalcetrapib had a 31 percent increase in "good" HDL cholesterol levels. Additional PET/CT scans showed that inflammation levels in the carotid artery of patients were significantly reduced only among those taking dalcetrapib. The carotid arteries are responsible for supplying oxygenated blood to the head and neck.

In a different study, a drug in the same class designed to raise HDL levels was tied to an increase in death linked to vascular inflammation, but the researchers did not find an increase in such inflammation with dalcetrapib.

"This milestone study shows that MRI and PET/CT are highly useful in assessing the safety and efficacy of dalcetrapib, and that this novel therapy may address a significantly unmet need in cardiovascular disease," said lead study author Zahi A. Fayad, a professor of radiology and medicine in the cardiology division at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the director of its Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute, in a Mt. Sinai news release.

"We are excited about the results obtained in this trial, which could have a great impact on the treatment of patients with cardiovascular disease," said Fayad, who disclosed receiving financial compensation as a scientific advisory board member from the study's sponsor, Hoffmann-La Roche, whose holding company makes dalcetrapib.

Fayad noted imaging technology could be a vital tool for evaluating other treatments for heart disease.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about atherosclerosis.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Mount Sinai Hospital, news release, Sept. 12, 2011

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