Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease, affecting more than 20 million adults in the United States.1
If you have coronary artery disease or have a high risk of developing coronary artery disease, you may wonder about the newest ways to prevent and treat the condition. Before any new therapies are made widely available, researchers must make sure they are both safe and effective in a process called a clinical trial.2
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Current Trends in Coronary Artery Disease Research
Researchers and doctors are constantly looking for new or better ways to prevent and treat coronary artery disease. Organizations like the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) are currently funding coronary artery disease clinical trials to research new prevention strategies, causes, and treatments for coronary artery disease.3
Preventing Coronary Artery Disease
Strategies to prevent coronary artery disease usually focus on lowering your cholesterol and encouraging heart-healthy lifestyle habits. A group of researchers is investigating how another protein in your blood — called triglyceride-rich ApoB-containing lipoprotein — can increase your risk of heart disease.4 Triglyceride-rich lipoproteins are strongly associated with obesity, “prediabetes,” and diabetes. They are also associated with low levels of HDL cholesterol. These types of lipoproteins contribute to “residual risk” in patients with coronary artery disease taking statins (as many patients on statins continue to experience heart attack).
Causes of Coronary Artery Disease
Several long-term studies are looking into what makes someone more likely to develop coronary artery disease.3
One current study is investigating how problems during pregnancy — such as high blood pressure or heart problems — increase your risk for heart disease later in life. This study started in 2010 and is still monitoring participants.5
A recent study looked at how coronary artery disease impacts your risk of having a heart attack. They found that higher levels of one type of cholesterol, called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — also known as good cholesterol — were associated with fewer complications of coronary artery disease, such as heart attacks.6
Other studies are looking for genes associated with heart disease.7 For instance, a topic of current interest is investigating lipoprotein(a), which is determined in large part by one’s genes and is associated with premature coronary artery disease.8 Researchers are also investigating genes that can specifically increase the risk of coronary artery disease in people with African ancestry.9 Discovering which genes are involved in developing coronary artery disease can lead to new ways of preventing and treating the disease.3
The International Study of Comparative Health Effectiveness with Medical and Invasive Approaches (ISCHEMIA) is investigating the best ways to treat coronary artery disease.10 This study is still collecting data and is following patients over a long period of time to see how coronary artery disease treatments affect complications, such as heart attacks and death.11 They expect the results of this study to be available by 2026.3
One part of the ISCHEMIA trial that has finished compared the outcomes of people who received early surgical coronary artery disease treatments with a more conservative strategy involving medications and lifestyle changes. They found that although people who received early surgical treatments had less chest pain (angina), the risk of heart attacks and death was about the same as people treated with only medication and lifestyle treatments.12
Another part of the ISCHEMIA trial looked at how coronary artery disease treatments impact people also living with chronic kidney disease (CKD). They found that early surgical treatment did not reduce the risk of heart attack or death compared to conservative treatment with medication and lifestyle changes.13
Surgical Treatments for Coronary Artery Disease
The Cardiothoracic Surgical Trials Network (CTSN) is an international group that studies new treatments and surgical techniques to treat heart disease.14 As of 2023, they are currently enrolling participants to study the safety and efficacy of blood-thinning medications in people who have atrial fibrillation (a condition that causes an irregular heart rhythm) after surgery for coronary artery disease.15
Mental Health and Coronary Artery Disease
Anxiety and depression are common in people with coronary artery disease and are associated with worse outcomes in people who have these conditions. Researchers are investigating effective ways of reducing anxiety and depression in people with heart disease.16
A recent study compared the effects of an antidepressant called escitalopram (Lexapro®) and exercise on anxiety in people with coronary artery disease. They found that escitalopram was effective in treating anxiety but that exercise was not, despite its many other health benefits in people with coronary artery disease.16
Other researchers are studying new ways of treating depression in people with coronary artery disease. One study found that depression may be harder to treat in people with coronary artery disease.17 This discovery may lead to more effective treatments for depression in people with coronary artery disease.
Joining a Coronary Artery Disease Clinical Trial
Find Clinical Trials Near Me
Interested in clinical trials? Simply search by postal code and type of condition to see what’s going on in your area.
The criteria that define who can participate in a clinical trial are called the inclusion criteria. Factors that may disqualify you from participating are called exclusion criteria.18
You may be eligible to join a coronary artery disease clinical trial if you have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease or if you are at high risk for developing coronary artery disease. You may even be able to join a coronary artery disease clinical trial as a healthy participant to compare the effects of a certain intervention in people with coronary artery disease.18
Factors that can affect your eligibility to join a clinical trial for coronary artery disease treatments include:18
- Your age
- Your sex
- The severity of your disease
- Your previous treatments
- Your other medical conditions
Clinical research helps doctors discover new treatments and prevention strategies to improve the lives of people living with coronary artery disease. Joining a clinical trial can also give you access to the newest treatments available.
The decision to join a clinical trial is a personal one. Before participating in a research study, you should learn about the potential benefits and risks and talk to your healthcare provider to see if it is right for you.