In an exceptionally written article in The New York Times Magazine last week, readers were introduced to a patient who suffered from two deadly forms of cancer: lung and melanoma. When asked what he almost died from, this patient shared it was actually not these cancers, but a heart attack.
Throughout the rest of this thought-provoking article, the author, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cancer physician and scientist at Columbia University, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, shared that the two top killers in our country, heart disease and cancer may now be linked. He carefully explains how.
Before today (and for the most part still) the subspecialists dealing with these killers—Cardiologists and oncologists have lived in two very different medical jurisdictions. They attend different medical conferences, read very different medical journals and essentially do not speak the same medical language.
The author brings up a distinguished faculty member of ours at Cardiometabolic Health Congress, Dr. Peter Libby in his article. He explains that Dr. Libby, a cardiologist, along with Dr. Paul Ridker, brought to light an important variable in the early 2000’s that was never discussed in relation to heart disease and plaque formation – inflammation.
For several years therafter, Drs. Libby and Ridker focused on a specific molecule involved in inflammation. A new drug that inhibited this one specific molecule, was actually being used to treat very rare inflammatory diseases; and in 2011, Dr. Ridker’s team enrolled thousands of patients with signs of inflammation (and at very high risk for coronary disease) into a study to determine the effects of this new drug on heart disease.
The basis of this article lies in the results of this study which were published only 2 months ago.
With higher doses of the drug, there was a noticeable reduction in heart attacks, stroke and cardiovascular death.
However, what caught the author’s attention was a separate investigation that inquired: Would this drug also reduce cancer risks?
A medical journal titled The Lancet published a paper where Dr. Ridker and his team found that there was a drop in all cancer death in drug-treated patients; specifically, a decrease in the deaths from and occurrence of lung cancer.
Bottom line, this article seems to point out that a component of inflammation is driving plaque formation in coronary disease that is ALSO driving cancer progression.
The author explains that this study will need careful reproduction and that the analysis coming out of this investigation was not meant to prove a hypothesis, but only to suggest one.
Many questions remain understandably, but if the findings hold true in future studies, any form of inhibiting the specific molecule, interleukin-1 beta, could eventually be ranked as one of the most effective prevention methods in cancer’s most recent history.
We are excited about anything that could potentially mean the prevention of cancer or heart disease here at CMHC, and we do know from a personal perspective how oncologists and cardiologists can benefit from networking and attending meetings together. We recognize this is only the beginning, but we encourage all specialists to check out our most recent meeting agenda, and help us congratulate our own distinguished faculty member, Dr. Peter Libby in his early discoveries of inflammation in the potential future prevention of cancer!