Heart attack and cancer risk cut by new treatment

Injections of the anti-inflammatory canakinumab are revolutionary, say scientists

A scientist examining cancer cells
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK))

A new treatment that greatly reduces the risk of repeat heart attacks and cuts deaths from cancer opens up a new era in the treatment of both conditions, scientists say.

In what the Daily Telegraph describes as "the biggest breakthrough since statins", injections of the anti-inflammatory canakinumab cut repeat heart attacks by a quarter in a trial involving 10,000 patients.

Perhaps "more intriguing", says Time magazine, are results related to cancer. In a separate report published in the Lancet, using data from the same study, canakinumab was found to lower the risk of dying from any cancer over four years by 50 per cent, and the risk of fatal lung cancer by 75 per cent.

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Presenting his results at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Barcelona, lead researcher Dr Paul Ridker of Harvard Medical School said the findings would have "far-reaching implications" for heart-attack patients, opening up a new generation of treatment.

"These findings represent the end game of more than two decades of research," said Ridker. "For the first time, we've been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk."

Cholesterol-busting statins are given to millions of adults deemed to be at risk of heart disease, but half of all heart attacks occur in people who do not have high cholesterol levels.

The breakthrough could have ramifications for the roughly 200,000 people a year in Britain who suffer a heart attack. Typically, around a quarter of survivors will go on to have another event within five years, despite taking statins.

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