Could a cancer drug be key to helping patients recover from a heart attack?

The NIHR Cambridge Clinical Research Facility supported study has found that a low dose of the cancer drug aldesleukin when injected into acute heart attack patients, increased the activation of immune cells shown to protect the heart.

By targeting the inflammation caused by the body’s immune response to a heart attack the researchers also hope to reduce a person’s chances of having a second heart attack. The Cambridge team are now conducting a Phase 2 clinical trial to test the drug.

Dr Tian Zhao, BHF clinical lecturer in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Cambridge said: “Right now, there is no way to stop the immune system, which gets activated after a heart attack, from mistakenly damaging the heart.

“If our clinical trial shows that aldesleukin works by harnessing the ‘good cops’ of our immune system, we may have found a way to help the heart heal after a heart attack.”

The research is supported by NIHR Cambridge BRC and the Medical Research Council and featured on BBC Look East in October 2021.

This is an abridged version of the press release that was published on our website on October 7, 2021.

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