Treating atherosclerosis: local drug delivery from laboratory studies to clinical trials


      Treating only the specific section of the vascular bed that is diseased appears to make sense. Giving drugs systematically to treat perhaps only a few centimetres of affected artery carries with it the risk of systemic side effects and reduced efficacy consequent on low concentrations of agent at the site of the problem. There has thus been great interest since the early 1990s in local drug delivery. Initial targets were the thrombotic response to plaque disruption but the problems arising from the incidental damage inflicted by devices used in interventional cardiology and the pathological consequences of this, namely smooth muscle cell initiated intimal hyperplasia, soon became the focus of pre-clinical studies. Problems to be overcome were the low efficiency of delivery of drugs and the low retention rates. Solutions to these problems included the development of strategies to target drugs, through the use of antibodies directed at antigens newly released at the site of damage. As it became clear that stents were becoming central to the attainment of a better clinical response to intervention by their inherent physical properties, it also became obvious that stents could be used to deliver agents. Issues such as which stent, how to load the drug onto the stent and what drug to use to inhibit the unwanted pathobiological response are ongoing issues.


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