Study set to save lives
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.
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.