If you have news to share, comments or suggestions about Findings, we want to hear from you. Send us your news by clicking here.
UC Heart & Vascular Patients Grow New Coronary Arteries
Published April 2004
Three patients at UC and The University Hospital have grown new
coronary arteries after receiving a growth factor protein (FGF1) in
November 2003. All three patients showed improved blood flow to the
heart three months following the injection.
UC Heart & Vascular physicians were the first in the U.S. to inject
this protein in heart patients in an attempt to grow new coronary
arteries. The procedure is part of a phase I clinical trial, measureing
the safety and effectiveness of FGF1 to grow new arteries, termed
angiogenesis, in patients with angina (debilitating chest pain) due to
severe coronary artery disease. UC is one of only four sites nationwide
to participate in the trial, which is sponsored by CardioVascular
Genetic Engineering of Tustin, California. Nationally, 32 patients will
Thomas Stegmann, MD, professor and chief of cardiovascular surgery at
Fulda Medical Center in Fulda, Germany, worked on the discovery and
development of this growth factor, and performed the first procedure in
"Some people have such incapacitating chest pain and severe coronary
artery disease that conventional treatments such as stents or bypass
operations aren't an option," said Principal Investigator Lynne E.
Wagoner, MD, associate professor of medicine, UC College of Medicine,
and direc-tor of cardiac services at The University Hospital.
"Angiogenesis represents a promising treatment alternative. UC is
pleased to be the first center in the nation to offer the growth factor
protein treatment to patients. Dr. Stegmann's European results are
Angina affects more than 6 million Americans and may lead to heart
failure. It is often managed by medication, and in more severe cases,
with angioplasty, stenting and/or coronary artery bypass surgery.
Angiogenesis treatment is an important breakthrough for patients who
have run out of options and are at risk for developing heart failure.
The three American patients who received this growth factor protein
are: Constance Donley, 51, of Cold Spring, Kentucky; Claudia Robertson,
54, of Kettering, Ohio; and James Duke, 57, of the Forest Park area of
Cincinnati. Before treatment, Donley found it difficult to work a full
day and was nearly crippled by constant chest pain.
Patients are invited to participate in the clinical trial after meeting
stringent criteria. Dr. Wagoner; Daniel Snavely, MD, assistant
professor and interventional cardiologist at UC; and Walter H. Merrill,
MD, professor and chief of UC's Divison of Cardiothoracic Surgery, work
together to conduct tests to determine if standard therapy is no longer
an option for patients and if they qualify for this study. Dr. Merrill
injects FGF1 directly into the heart muscle of the patient. Each
patient receives up to two injections of the growth factor protein
during minimally-invasive, beating-heart surgery. Supplementing the
heart with the growth factor protein can result in the growth of new
Patients are evaluated through cardiac catheterization screenings three
months following the injection. Dr. Snavely uses angiographic dye to
detect any new artery growth. In the first three patients enrolled in
the |trial, FGF1 did, in fact, lead to new vessel formation and can be
seen as a "blush" during cardiac catheterization. New arteries result
in more blood flow, and therefore increased oxygen delivered to the
heart muscle. All patients are reporting little or no chest pain and
the ability to do more physical activity than before receiving the
Coronary artery disease affects 12 million Americans and it is
estimated that the related costs of this disease are more than $100
billion per year in the U.S. The use of the FGF1 growth factor protein
may also have significant application in the treatment of stroke or
other problems consisting of de-creased blood flow to the brain, or in
peripheral vascular disease when there is diminished blood flow to the
"This process is exciting for us as doctors, because it represents
important collaborations between medical and surgical specialties that
result in a spectrum of extraordinary care for patients with advanced
heart disease," said Dr. Merrill.