Here are the featured articles for the newest release from Pulmonary Circulation:
Clinical trial protocol for TRANSFORM-UK: A therapeutic open-label study of tocilizumab in the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension
Our aim is to assess the safety and potential efficacy of a novel treatment paradigm in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), immunomodulation by blocking interleukin-6 (IL6) signaling with the IL6 receptor antagonist, tocilizumab. Inflammation and autoimmunity are established as important in PAH pathophysiology. One of the most robust observations across multiple cohorts in PAH has been an increase in IL6, both in the lung and systemically. Tocilizumab is an IL-6 receptor antagonist established as safe and effective, primarily in rheumatoid arthritis, and has shown promise in scleroderma. In case reports where the underlying cause of PAH is an inflammatory process such as systemic lupus erythematosus, mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD), and Castleman’s disease, there have been case reports of regression of PAH with tocilizumab. TRANSFORM-UK is an open-label study of intravenous (IV) tocilizumab in patients with group 1 PAH. The co-primary outcome measures will be safety and the change in resting pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR). Clinically relevant secondary outcome measurements include 6-minute walk distance, WHO functional class, quality of life score, and N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP). If the data support a potentially useful therapeutic effect with an acceptable risk profile, the study will be used to power a Phase III study to properly address efficacy.
Bosentan-based, treat-to-target therapy in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension: results from the COMPASS-3 study
The phase 4 COMPASS-3 study evaluated whether a singular endpoint produces clinically meaningful outcomes in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). The relationship between cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI)-derived parameters and right heart catheterization (RHC) measurements was also examined. In COMPASS-3 (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00433329), 100 patients with PAH received bosentan monotherapy for 16 weeks. Patients continued monotherapy if their 6-min walk distance (6MWD) was ≥380 m, or otherwise received add-on sildenafil for an additional 12 weeks. 6MWD, RHC, and cMRI were performed at baseline, week 16, and week 28 (6MWD and cMRI). Baseline median 6MWD was 274 m and 82% of patients had WHO Functional Class III/IV. At week 16, 17% (n = 16) of remaining patients achieved the 6MWD threshold and 78 (83%) did not. In the intention-to-treat population, median 6MWD increased significantly relative to baseline (week 16 = 308 m; week 28 = 327 m; P < 0.001). At week 28, 9/16 (monotherapy) and 15/76 (20%; add-on sildenafil) patients met the target threshold. Baseline cMRI-derived and RHC-derived parameters showed moderate-to-strong correlations (e.g. right to left ventricular end-diastolic ratio [RVEDV:LVEDV] correlated strongly with pulmonary vascular resistance [r = +0.729, P < 0.0001]). cMRI-derived parameters predicted clinical worsening/decline (e.g. week 16 RVEDV:LVDEV [P = 0.0172]). Time to clinical worsening/decline did not differ between patients based on 6MWD threshold achievement. No unexpected safety events were reported. A substantial proportion of patients failed to achieve the goal of 380 m, regardless of treatment. Several cMRI parameters predicted clinical worsening/decline and its non-invasive nature further supports its use in future clinical trials.
The impact of ambrisentan and tadalafil upfront combination therapy on cardiac function in scleroderma associated pulmonary arterial hypertension patients: cardiac magnetic resonance feature tracking study
The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of upfront combination therapy with ambrisentan and tadalafil on left ventricular (LV) and right ventricular (RV) function in patients with systemic sclerosis-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension (SSc-PAH). LV and RV peak longitudinal and circumferential strain and strain rate (SR), which consisted of peak systolic SR (SRs), peak early diastolic SR (SRe), and peak atrial-diastolic SR (SRa) were analyzed using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMRI) data from the recently published ATPAHSS-O trial (ambrisentan and tadalafil upfront combination therapy in SSc-PAH). Twenty-one patients completed the study protocol. Measures of RV systolic function (RV free wall [RVFW] peak longitudinal strain [pLS], RVFW peak longitudinal SRs [pLSRs]) and RV diastolic function (RVFW peak longitudinal SRa [pLSRa], RVFW peak circumferential SRe) were improved after treatment. LV systolic function (LV peak global longitudinal strain [pGLS]) and diastolic function (LV peak global longitudinal SRe [pGLSRe]) were also significantly improved at follow-up. Increased 6-min walk distance was significantly correlated with RVFW pLS and pLSRs, while the decrease in N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide was correlated with LV pGLS. Increased cardiac index was associated with improved LV pGLSRe, and reduction in mean right atrial pressure was correlated with improved RVFW pLS and pLSRa. Combination therapy was associated with a significant improvement in both RV and LV function as assessed by CMR-derived strain and SR. Importantly, the improvement in RV and LV strain and SR correlated with improvements in known prognostic markers of PAH. (Approved by clinicaltrials.gov [NCT01042158] before patient recruitment.)
Protective role of FKBP51 in calcium entry-induced endothelial barrier disruption
Pulmonary artery endothelial cells (PAECs) express a cation current, ISOC (store-operated calcium entry current), which when activated permits calcium entry leading to inter-endothelial cell gap formation. The large molecular weight immunophilin FKBP51 inhibits ISOC but not other calcium entry pathways in PAECs. However, it is unknown whether FKBP51-mediated inhibition of ISOC is sufficient to protect the endothelial barrier from calcium entry-induced disruption. The major objective of this study was to determine whether FKBP51-mediated inhibition of ISOC leads to decreased calcium entry-induced inter-endothelial gap formation and thus preservation of the endothelial barrier. Here, we measured the effects of thapsigargin-induced ISOC on the endothelial barrier in control and FKBP51 overexpressing PAECs. FKBP51 overexpression decreased actin stress fiber and inter-endothelial cell gap formation in addition to attenuating the decrease in resistance observed with control cells using electric cell-substrate impedance sensing. Finally, the thapsigargin-induced increase in dextran flux was abolished in FKBP51 overexpressing PAECs. We then measured endothelial permeability in perfused lungs of FKBP51 knockout (FKBP51–/–) mice and observed increased calcium entry-induced permeability compared to wild-type mice. To begin to dissect the mechanism underlying the FKBP51-mediated inhibition of ISOC, a second goal of this study was to determine the role of the microtubule network. We observed that FKBP51 overexpressing PAECs exhibited increased microtubule polymerization that is critical for inhibition of ISOC by FKBP51. Overall, we have identified FKBP51 as a novel regulator of endothelial barrier integrity, and these findings are significant as they reveal a protective mechanism for endothelium against calcium entry-induced disruption.
Balloon pulmonary angioplasty for inoperable patients with chronic thromboembolic disease
Symptomatic patients with residual pulmonary perfusion defects or vascular lesions but no pulmonary hypertension at rest are diagnosed with chronic thromboembolic disease (CTED). Balloon pulmonary angioplasty (BPA) is an emerging treatment for patients with inoperable chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), but data regarding the safety and efficacy of BPA in patients with CTED are lacking. We report a prospective series of ten consecutive patients with CTED who underwent 35 BPA interventions (median of four per patient) at two German institutions. All patients underwent a comprehensive diagnostic workup at baseline and 24 weeks after their last intervention. BPA was safe, with one pulmonary vascular injury and subsequent self-limiting pulmonary bleeding as the only complication (2.9% of the interventions, 10% of the patients). After the procedures, World Health Organization functional class, 6-min walking distance, pulmonary vascular resistance, and pulmonary arterial compliance improved, and NT-proBNP concentrations declined in 9/10 patients. BPA may be a new treatment option for carefully selected patients with CTED. A larger, prospective, international registry is required to confirm these results.