Cancer drug holds promise for heart disease

Monday, November 5, 2001

DALLAS -- A cancer drug has been shown to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in oxygen-starved areas of the heart, offering a potential new treatment for people with clogged heart arteries.

The new vessels redirect blood flow around the clogged arteries in an approach that is considered safer than bypass surgery or balloon angioplasty.

Swiss scientists studied 21 people, some of whom received injections of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, or GM-CSF. After two weeks, the 10 who got GM-CSF had substantially more improvement in blood flow than those who did not get the drug, said Dr. Christian Seiler, professor of cardiology at University Hospital in Bern.

"It demonstrates for the first time in humans that the growth of natural coronary bypasses can be promoted using an 'old' cancer drug," Seiler said.

GM-CSF, one of several proteins called human growth factors, is used in cancer patients to induce blood cell production and to increase the body's number of disease-fighting white cells.

Nearly a quarter of people with coronary artery disease cannot be treated with traditional methods like bypass surgery or angioplasty because they are too ill, Seiler said.

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