Study set to save lives

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - DANNI SHAFIK

A NEW study by re­searchers at the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Trop­i­cal Health and Medicine ( AITHM) at James Cook Univer­sity has found a com­mon di­a­betes med­i­ca­tion could limit the need for surgery in pa­tients suf­fer­ing from a po­ten­tially lifethreat­en­ing aneurysm.

Ab­dom­i­nal aor­tic aneurysm ( AAA) is a pro­gres­sive bal­loon­ing in a weak­ened sec­tion of the main artery, which in­creases the risk of rup­ture and fa­tal bleed­ing, killing about 1000 Aus­tralians a year.

Pa­tients with AAA are forced to wait for ex­pen­sive and in­va­sive surgery as their only op­tion to treat the po­ten­tially life- threat­en­ing con­di­tion. A break­through has been seen in a re­cent study pub­lished in the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Surgery as AITHM re­searchers found that AAA growth rates were sig­nif­i­cantly lower in pa­tients tak­ing Met­formin, a com­monly pre­scribed anti- di­a­betes med­i­ca­tion.

The re­sults are an im­por­tant step to­wards test­ing a new method of treat­ing pa­tients with AAA.

Study co- au­thor Dr Joe Moxon said AAA growth was mea­sured in pa­tients us­ing CT or ul­tra­sound scans and found those on Met­formin had sig­nif­i­cantly slower aneurysm growth rates.

“The dis­cov­ery of a drug to slow AAA growth has the po­ten­tial to re- duce the num­ber of people re­quir­ing surgery, and im­prove pa­tient qual­ity of life by low­er­ing anx­i­ety lev­els as­so­ci­ated with a life- threat­en­ing con- di­tion,” he said. “Cur­rently pa­tients are told that they have an aneurysm grow­ing in­side them, how­ever we are un­able to do any­thing to help slow the process. Pa­tients en­ter a ‘ watch­ful wait­ing’ process to mon­i­tor their aneurysm, which can cause stress and anx­i­ety, im­pact­ing their men­tal and so­cial well­be­ing. Dis­cov­ery of a medicine which ef­fec­tively slows AAA growth could rev­o­lu­tionise pa­tient man­age­ment,” Dr Moxon said.

Lead re­searcher Pro­fes­sor Jon Golledge said fur­ther re­search was re­quired to as­sess the ef­fect of the drug in non- di­a­betic pa­tients.

“Our data sug­gest that Met­formin may be as­so­ci­ated with slower AAA growth, although this is dif­fi­cult to dis­cern since all pa­tients tak­ing Met­formin also have di­a­betes,” he said.

“We want to see whether our ob­ser­va­tions of slower AAA growth in pa­tients re­ceiv­ing Met­formin re­flect a true drug ef­fect or are sim­ply the re­sult of di­a­betes.

“To do this, it’s nec­es­sary to con­duct a well de­signed ran­domised con­trol trial in AAA pa­tients who do not have di­a­betes.

“If suc­cess­ful, iden­ti­fy­ing a drug that slows AAA growth will have pro­found im­pli­ca­tions for pa­tients.

“It would be in­cred­i­bly ben­e­fi­cial to find an in­ex­pen­sive and ac­ces­si­ble drug to pro­vide a proac­tive treat­ment op­tion rather than wait­ing for sur­gi­cal in­ter­ven­tion,” Pro­fes­sor Golledge said.

The study was un­der­taken by re­searchers at the Queens­land Re­search Cen­tre for Pe­riph­eral Vas­cu­lar Dis­ease based at James Cook Univer­sity.

Pic­ture: FIONA HARD­ING

BREAK­THROUGH: Study co- au­thor Dr Joe Moxon and re­searcher Pro­fes­sor Jon Golledge have dis­cov­ered a way to po­ten­tially lower risk of a life- threat­en­ing aneurysm.

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