Gleevec (Imatinib) is a representative of the newest generation of cancer drugs. The substance conveys its potent anti-proliferative effect by selectively supressing the tyrosine kinase pathway. The Giessen lung researchers now issue a first report of this substance as a new target therapy for pulmonary hypertension.
In cancer, tissue proliferation is uncontrolled and leads to the spreading of the tumor," primary investigator Prof. Friedrich Grimminger of the University of Giessen Lung Center explained. "In pulmonary hypertension, also, uncontrolled growth of the vascular wall is the underlying mechanism of the disease." Pulmonary hypertension is a chronic and life-shortening vascular disease characterized by high pressure in the lung blood vessels. The relatively common condition can occur for many reasons such as heart disease and various acute and chronic lung ailments. As a result, the pulmonary arteries thicken and stiffen, causing high blood pressure and right heart hypertrophy.
In a translational research approach, taking their research "from bench to bedside", Dr. Ralph Schermuly of the same German center only recently described the successful use of Gleevec (Imatinib) in two well established experimental models of progressive pulmonary arterial hypertension. His group found, that the treatment resulted in virtually complete reversal of lung vascular remodeling, pulmonary hypertension and right heart hypertrophy. The common findings suggest, that Gleevec's uses might expand even further. Co-researcher Dr. Ardeschir Ghofrani is convinced, that the results of their studies may open a completely new therapeutic field of targeted treatment for chronic proliferative diseases such as atherosclerosis, COPD, lung emphysema or lung fibrosis.
Larger clinical trials in a controlled design to test Gleevec's safety and effectiveness are currently in preparation under the scientific lead of the Giessen lung researchers, who also signed largely responsible for the recent appproval of Revatio (Sildenafil) for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension in the US.
The UGLC constitutes an interdisciplinary scientific network incorporating 20 research groups with more than 120 basic scientists and clinicians, focusing on pulmonary research and treatment of lung diseases at the University Hospital Giessen, Germany.