McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Global study led by Mac professors aims to prevent heart attacks, strokes

By Sue Johnston

Published: May 10, 2007
Dr. Stephen Collins and Dr. Salim Yusuf
Dr. Stephen Collins (left), associate dean, research for the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Professor of Medicine Dr. Salim Yusuf at the announcement of the HOPE-3 study.

Two McMaster University professors are leading one of the largest, international research studies ever undertaken to discover more effective ways of substantially reducing the number of people who suffer from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The HOPE-3 (Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation) study will involve 10,000 people worldwide and investigate the prevention of heart attacks and strokes among those not previously known to be at risk.

Dr. Salim Yusuf, Professor of Medicine at McMaster and director of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI), is principal investigator of HOPE-3, which aims to determine if lowering blood pressure and cholesterol below what are traditionally considered "normal" levels can prevent people from having a first heart attack or stroke.

Dr. Eva Lonn, also a professor of medicine, is co-principal investigator of the project being funded by a $33-million investigator-initiated study grant from AstraZeneca, announced on Wednesday.

Of the approximately 16 million people who die from heart disease and stroke annually, about half had no warning symptoms or previous incidence of cardiovascular disease. It is well known that lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol levels are two highly effective strategies to prevent heart disease and stroke, but the benefits of these interventions have only been studied in people who have traditionally-defined high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, most heart attacks and strokes occur in people who are considered to have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

"HOPE-3 will test the concept of whether or not we can slow down, or better yet, reverse the process in most people before they develop cardiovascular disease," said Yusuf. "This is a unique study, and nothing like this has ever been conducted anywhere in the world. We will be testing two approaches to preventing heart attack and stroke that are complementary and have been proven to work in people with cardiovascular disease."

The study, being co-ordinated by staff at the PHRI, will recruit middle-aged men and women with average blood cholesterol and without known heart disease or stroke to take part in a clinical trial to test whether medications that lower blood pressure and cholesterol can in fact prevent the onset of heart disease and stroke.

The participants will be recruited in 10 countries, with the largest contingent – 3,000 – based in Canada. They will be given either the medications or a placebo, in addition to healthy lifestyle advice. Participants will be followed closely for about five years.

Yusuf said that if the medications being used in the trial prove successful at preventing heart disease and stroke among those not previously known to be at risk, the study results could "revolutionize medical practice and benefit tens of millions of people globally every year."

John Parkinson, executive vice-president of development for AstraZeneca, said the company’s involvement in the project was a logical next step for its work in the field of preventing cardiovascular disease.

"AstraZeneca is absolutely delighted (to provide the resources) to allow you to do this study . . .that will answer ask some very important questions, and hopefully answer some very important questions, about how best to reduce cardiovascular disease in the population," he said.

The PHRI is affiliated with McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences and previously conducted the first two HOPE trials, that were also large international trials investigating ways to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease and stroke worldwide.

Anyone interested in participating in the study can call 905-527-4322, ext. 44542 or 44592.

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