Anti-Inflammatory Cardiovascular Therapy Cuts Risk of Lung Cancer

A recent study of an anti-inflammatory drug for reducing heart attack and stroke yielded an exciting result: In addition to cutting cardiovascular risk and total mortality, the drug also dramatically lowered the risk of lung cancer.

Led by Paul Ridker, MD, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (pictured above), the clinical trial included more than 10,000 patients with a history of heart attack who had high levels of C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), a well-known biomarker of inflammation.

For more than five years, these patients were treated with the anti-inflammatory drug canakinumab, which showed a marked reduction not only in heart attacks but also in the incidence of lung cancer and a reduction in deaths from cancer in participants who received the highest dosage of the drug. While Ridker notes that canakinumab most likely does not prevent new lung cancers from developing but rather helps to slow the progression and invasiveness of lung cancer, the trial introduces new possibilities for exploring the effectiveness of giving a drug to patients before cancer emerges.

“Our work proves the inflammation hypothesis of heart disease,” says Ridker. “It builds on the idea that cancer and inflammation are intimately linked, and provides novel insights on how inhibiting inflammation may slow cancer progression and invasiveness.”

This article was originally featured in the 2017 Honor Roll, which celebrates donors to Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. Check out more profiles of patients, clinicians, and researchers that illustrate the power of transformative philanthropy at the Brigham.