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McMaster and HHS part of a $32M investment in national heart failure research network

McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) will join the Canadian Heart Function (CHF) Alliance through the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) – one of six hubs across Canada looking to minimize one of the country's common killers.
McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) will join the Canadian Heart Function (CHF) Alliance through the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) – one of six hubs across Canada looking to minimize one of the country's common killers. Lisa Polewski / Global News

A new Canada-wide network with a hub in Hamilton is launching with the help of a $32-million investment to discover new treatments aimed at improving outcomes for those experiencing heart failure.

McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) will join the Canadian Heart Function (CHF) Alliance through the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) – one of six hubs across Canada looking to minimize one of the country’s common killers.

“We will be expected to make transformative discoveries in the next five years,” said Salim Yusuf, PHRI’s executive director and professor of medicine at McMaster.

The Hamilton agency is behind a randomized clinical trial that will see 2,500 participants in seven countries receiving two drugs – colchicine and thiamine – that haven’t been used to treat heart failure until now.

Dr. Philip Joseph, the trial’s lead investigator and an associate professor in the division of cardiology at McMaster, said the need to find better ways to treat the condition is greater than ever as heart failure is on the rise among an aging population.

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“It’s a pretty significant condition. It has very high mortality associated with it compared to other diseases and also, on average, poor quality of life,” he told Global News.

“In addition to this, there’s a tremendous amount of health expenditure that currently happens to treat and manage heart failure. So there’s significant interest in trying to prevent heart failure from happening in the first place, and also improving the lives and clinical outcomes of patients living with heart failure.”

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The trial will look at how colchicine, which is an anti-inflammatory agent, can potentially improve outcomes in patients with ischemic heart disease, which is one of the most common causes of heart failure.

Joseph also said there is a lot of data to suggest heart failure patients have a relative thiamine deficiency, so some patients will be given thiamine supplementation.

“Both of these interventions are important because they target very new ways of potentially treating heart failure, reducing inflammation and also addressing nutritional deficiency, which haven’t really been looked at to a large extent in heart failure research.”

He added that those two drugs have been widely available for decades for treating other conditions, so it would be a low-cost and effective option if they ended up working on heart failure patients.

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The trial has been in the planning stages up until now but with the help of the funding, including $5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Joseph said he hopes it can get underway within the next six to nine months, with results expected three to four years from now.

The CHF alliance spans eight provinces and one territory, with 132 investigators.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates nine in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart conditions, stroke, or vascular cognitive impairment.

One in five Canadians experience heart failure, which is when the heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should.

About 35 to 40 per cent of people with heart failure die within five years — a figure comparable to several cancers.

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