Friday, February 3, 2012

Raising awareness and finding cures for heart disease and stroke

Today is National Women’s Heart Health Day, part of February’s National Heart Month. Why a day just for women? Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States, but women are less likely than men to recognize their risk or to receive fast-acting drugs to improve their chances of surviving strokes or heart attacks.

To help women recognize and lower their risk of heart disease, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, ten years ago started their The Heart Truth campaign. This is the campaign that’s associated with the red dresses and encouragement for women to take steps to lower their risk.

I have, in the past, been skeptical of awareness campaigns. Who cares how aware people are of disease risk if there’s no corresponding call to action to reduce risk? What’s great about the NHLBI’s campaign is that it seems to be working. On their website, they reference a study showing that 57% of women who saw the red dress campaign took at least one step to reduce their risk of heart disease – including getting exercise, stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. That’s up from 35% in 2008.

Given that heart disease is so common in both men and women, it’s no surprise CIRM funds as much as we do in this area. Our website has a list of all awards targeting heart disease, adding up to more than $45 million. Of these, one award worth $5.5 million is to a team of researchers led by Eduardo Marban of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. That team hopes to be in clinical trials with their approach for treating heart failure in the next few years. My colleague Todd Dubnicoff wrote about a talk Marban recently gave to our governing board describing results from work leading up to the CIRM-funded award. You can watch a video of that talk here.

We also have a list of all stroke-related awards worth almost $40 million. One of those is a $20 million award to a team led by Gary Steinberg at Stanford University, who hopes to be in clinical trials with a therapy based on embryonic stem cells in a few years. You can read more about that team’s approach in our Stories of Hope: Stroke.

As a woman with heart disease in the family I’m glad the NHLBI is having such success in helping other women recognize and reduce their risk. But prevention can’t stop all heart disease. That’s why I’m also glad to see good research by teams trying to find ways of helping people survive and recover if they do have heart attacks or strokes.



  1. Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are a vital source for cardiovascular repair, please go to for most recent breakthrough for heart muscle regeneration. Although endogenous heart cells can help patient dying heart cells live longer, improving the pump factor from ~ 30 to ~ 40, they cannot regenerate the heart muscle. Considering how critical to CIRM’s mission, are we all surprised how few CIRM awards really went to heart regeneration?

    1. It doesn't seem anyone really cares about the patients, it's about the $...the patient community better wake up!

      Big Pharma Squashes New Accelerated Drug-Approval Bill Sought by Biotechs

      According to a draft made public last year and reported on by several news outlets, TREAT would have allowed the review of new drugs under two new FDA approval pathways—progressive or exceptional—if they were designed to provide meaningful advances in the treatment of an unmet, serious or life-threatening condition. Drugs undergoing these accelerated reviews would be cleared based on any testing showing efficacy, including biomarker tests, early trial results, and interim data.

      Smaller companies, mostly biotechs, endorsed TREAT, while pharma giants like GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer mostly opposed. “It was very clear by creating a new track we were going to engender so much anxiety and suspicion up front that we were going to never get to the meat of the proposal,” Ron Cohen, CEO of Acorda Therapeutics, told Bloomberg. GSK confirmed its disagreement with TREAT, while Pfizer and a Hagan spokeswoman would not comment.

      Another Bloomberg source offered a plausible explanation for the divide: The faster drug reviews take, the less that smaller biotechs need funding for research and trials from big pharma, according to Richard (Erik) M. Gordon, clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. While big pharma has been more willing to undertake those partnerships rather than spend more for in-house R&D, it has come at a price to the biotechs, namely a cut of their sales.

    2. I Will Not Be Pinkwashed: Komen's Race Is For Money, Not Cure
      Outrageous salaries, drug company ties, and less than a dime of every dollar looks for a cure.

      February 4, 2012 |

      It’s October. And that means, it’s prime pink season. It’s national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that magical time of year when shades of pale pink are plastered onto every product, every container, every conceivable gadget or gizmo the Susan G. Komen Foundation can get its hands on.That iconic symbol of overlapped ribbon is supposed to adorn every man, woman and child who ever had a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, niece or aunt who faced the horrifying struggle of breast cancer.

      But I am not buying it.

      Susan G. Komen: For Cure of Con?

      Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a multimillion-dollar company with assets totaling over $390 million. Only 20.9% of these funds were reportedly used in the 2009-2010 fiscal year for research “for the cure.” Where does the rest of the money go? Let’s have a look. Health screening is 13.0%. Treatment is 5.6%. Fundraising is 10.0%. The largest chunk of the pie is going toward “public health education,” 39.1%. More on that later, but for now I’d like to take a look at the millions, or 11.3%, spent on “administrative costs.”'s_race_is_for_money,_not_cure__/?page=entire

  2. $30M donated to McMaster for stem cell therapies
    Money will also go to a clinic for patients with complex health problems
    A family donating $30 million to McMaster University wants to speed up the development of stem cell therapies.

    Of the total going to the Hamilton, Ont., university, $24 million will be used to establish the Boris Family Centre in Human Stem Cell Therapies, which will speed the commercial development of discoveries made at the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

    "McMaster University has proven its ability to fast forward discoveries from the lab bench to the patients' bedside," Les Boris said in a news release on behalf of his parents’ Marta and Owen Boris Foundation.

  3. Study aims to see if stem cells could aid stroke recovery
    Stem cell study aims for stroke treatment

    Dr. David Hess, the chairman of GHSU’s De­partment of Neurology, has been working with the company Athersys to help develop and test the cells, which are derived from healthy donors, tested and packaged so they can be stored in most hospital settings and given without the need to match blood type. Unlike embryonic stem cells, the cells have a very low risk of spawning a tumor, and so far they shown few side effects, Hess said.

    Unlike other studies that have looked at taking stem cells from stroke patients, growing them and giving them back, a laborious and expensive prospect that takes time, the MultiStem cells are ready to go.

    Stroke patients tend to be older and their stem cells might not be as effective as the ones taken from the younger donors Athersys uses, Hess said.

  4. Thanks for sharing the info here. Keep up the good work. All the best.

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