Heart Research Institute announces stroke scientific breakthrough

The Facts

Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, starving brain cells of oxygen and important nutrients, resulting in impacted areas of the brain dying. The most common cause of stroke is a blood clot obstructing blood flow, known as an ischaemic stroke.

Stroke impacts almost 55,0001 Australians each year, plus their family and friends. It can occur without warning and affect any age, causing a range of disabilities. With a total financial cost to Australia of approximately $5 billion2 per year, the burden of stoke is not just physical. Productivity costs of $3 billion and carer costs of $222 million reflect how individuals also bear the greatest financial burden of stroke – with estimates showing family and friends wear approximately $67 million of stroke-related costs in a year.

Specialist physicians who treat stroke know all too well that ​’time is brain’, with the prompt removal of the offending blood clot associated with best patient outcomes. Unfortunately, due to a myriad of side effects, around 90 per cent of Australians who present to hospital with stroke are unable to receive thrombolysis (tPA) says Simone Schoenwaelder, Associate Professor and HRI’s Thrombosis Research Group lead researcher

Existing stroke treatment

Since its approval for use in 1996, there has only been a single drug available to treat ischaemic stroke (caused by blood clot). The administration of tPA to patients suffering stroke, referred to as ‘thrombolysis’, has a raft of side effects, meaning only 10 per cent of stroke sufferers are deemed eligible to receive this treatment, leaving 90 per cent of Australian stroke survivors without options.

Patients ineligible to receive tPA either get to the emergency room too late or are taking other medications that cannot be combined with tPA, for fear of causing bleeding in the brain. Even more frustrating for those who receive tPA, successful clot removal occurs in less than 50%, with blood clots reforming in up to 30% of treated patients. Associate Professor Schoenwaelder

HRI’s scientific breakthrough

Thrombosis Group at HRI are in the final phase of developing a revolutionary new class of anti-clotting drug that could improve the quality of life for thousands of stroke sufferers, when combined with the existing stroke therapies.

Led by Professor Shaun Jackson, the group has confirmed the effectiveness of its drug in preclinical laboratory studies, and demonstrated the safety of its drug in healthy humans through Phase 1 clinical trials. Now, the Group is working towards implementing Phase 2 Clinical trials – testing the effectiveness of its drug on stroke patients.

This means that over the next decade, health care professionals in Australia – and the world – could have a better treatment for stroke in market.

Our new drug, when combined with existing treatment, not only dissolves the blood clot better, it also reduces the ability of the clot to re-occur. Importantly, it does this without increasing bleeding risk. With the successful completion of Phase II clinical trials, we could proceed to developing our drug commercially. Associate Professor Schoenwaelder

What you can do to help

HRI needs just $2 million in funding to realise its ground-breaking research.

Additional funding will help researchers to test the new drug’s effectiveness on stroke survivors, moving research into the next phase and closer to increasing stroke survivors’ quality of life.

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