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Maastricht study of biomarkers in heart failure is unique

Placed by Lissa van der Heijden for Regional Care Portals at 2014-07-07

Press release 25 June 2014


In his inaugural lecture, ‘Towards personalized medicine’, Hans Peter Brunner-La Rocca advocates for a more personalized approach to the treatment of heart failure. This applies to the organisation of care for a heart patient as well as to the patient’s medication. “Our study of the interactions between numerous biomarkers should ultimately allow us to see for each individual patient which drugs will work and which will not, and especially at what dosage.” Brunner-La Rocca will give his lecture on Friday, 27 June as he accepts his chair ‘Cardiology with a focus on Clinical Heart Failure’.

It is estimated that about 15 million people in Europe suffer from heart failure. One in 10 people over the age of 75 suffer from heart failure. Until now, all major drug studies on heart failure have been done in the same way, according to Brunner-La Rocca: one group of patients receives the maximum dose of a particular drug, another group a placebo. No distinction is made between patients. As a result, all future patients are treated with the highest possible dose of a particular drug, allowing more side effects to occur, without even knowing if this is the most effective dose for a patient. The biomarker research in Maastricht is trying to change this. “If we pull this off, it will represent a complete paradigm shift in the treatment and management of heart failure. Then we’ll be able to say for each patient which medications are really necessary and which might be needed only in very low doses or not at all. Currently, for most heart failure cardiologists, less medication is non-negotiable,” says Brunner-La Rocca. 

According to Brunner-La Rocca, the Maastricht research is unique in its aim and approach. “Biomarkers are substances that can be measured in the blood and that tell us something about how the various organs are doing. At present, a lot of research is being done on biomarkers, not only in heart failure. These studies cover on average between 100 and 1,000 biomarkers. In my opinion, they are doomed to fail because the matter is complicated and there is too much that we still don’t understand. We therefore have chosen only 20 biomarkers, of which we know their meaning for the heart. We investigate the interactions between these biomarkers and the medication over a period of one to two years and observe the consequences for patients. Also, international partners make their data and samples available to us for this study.”

Because this research requires complex calculations, there is cooperation with the Faculty of Knowledge Engineering at Maastricht University and with Roche Diagnostics. Initial results are expected at the end of this year. A prospective study will then be planned to test the results. 

The aim of the Department of Clinical Heart Failure is to achieve the personalized treatment of heart failure from a holistic approach. This means that the department’s research not only looks at heart failure, but also at co-morbidity and at the preferences of the patient. In this way, the care for a heart failure patient should also be addressed. “We are researching this in the INTERACT-in-Hf study. Based on the results, we want to improve the regional care for heart failure in the near future.”


Source: Maastricht University


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