Columbia University Medical Center

Rapamycin Greatly Reduces The Progression Of Chronic Rejection, The Leading Cause Of Late Death In Heart Transplant Recipients

New treatment may resolve major obstacle to long-term survival of heart transplant patients

New York, NY – June 26, 2003 – Dr. Andrew Marks, chairman of the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, director of the Center for Molecular Cardiology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (P&S), and cardiologist at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and a team of researchers at P&S and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital have made significant findings in the treatment of cardiac transplantation vasculopathy, a chronic form of rejection that is the leading cause of death in heart transplant recipients. The researchers found that treating patients with the drug rapamycin greatly reduced the progression of chronic rejection leading to a dramatic reduction in significant events, such as heart attacks, bypass procedures, angioplasties, and death. The findings are published in the July issue of Circulation.
“The major obstacle to the long-term survival of heart transplant recipients is cardiac transplantation vasculopathy,” explained Dr. Marks. “Every patient ultimately develops this condition despite the use of traditional immunosuppressant drugs. Treating patients with rapamycin, however, slows down the disease as evidenced by the impressive reduction in the number of significant cardiac events.”

“We followed 46 patients over the course of two years, all of whom have vasculopathy,” explained Dr. Donna Mancini, associate professor of medicine at P&S and medical director of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center’s transplant program. “Of these patients, 22 were given rapamycin, and 24 were in the control group. Fourteen patients in the control group had significant events, whereas only three in the rapamycin group had similar events. For example, five patients in the control group required angioplasty, as opposed to one in the rapamycin group. In the control group, one patient required bypass surgery and none of the rapamycin patients did,” said Dr. Mancini.

“Given the dramatic reduction in significant events, this is a hopeful and promising time for heart transplant recipients,” concluded Dr. Marks. “With further studies to confirm these findings, we hope to find the key to long-term survival in these patients.”

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Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons
Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians & Surgeons is the home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York state and among the largest in the country. Columbia’s Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics is one of the nation’s premier scientific groups focusing on cellular physiology, cardiovascular biology, and neurobiology research. Columbia’s transplant center is one of the largest and most highly regarded centers in the world and is a frontrunner in transplant-related research.