Researchers looking at new treatments for abdominal aortic aneurysm

Monash University

Monash researchers are investigating whether a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes can also help people suffering a life-threatening aneurysm in the abdomen.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) affects about 20 million people and causes 200,000 deaths each year. It is caused by the enlargement of the abdominal segment of the aorta – the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body.

The wall of the aorta weakens in the area where the aneurysm forms and the blood vessel can burst, causing life-threatening internal bleeding. High risk surgery is the only treatment available.

However, research has found AAAs are less common in patients with diabetes. Researchers are now investigating whether Metformin, an old and widely accepted treatment for Type 2 diabetes, because of its anti-inflammatory effects, has an effect on AAA growth and rupture.

Associate Professor Anthony Dear from Monash Eastern Health Clinical School, is leading the Metformin Aneurysm Trial (MAT) in Melbourne to assess whether Metformin may prevent the need for surgery, or death, from AAA rupture.

“Currently, once an AAA is detected, we have to monitor the aneurysm until it expands to a size where surgery can be performed. Our hope for the trial is to establish if Metformin can not only prevent the need for surgery, but prevent any further growth and rupture,” Associate Professor Dear said.

AAAs are difficult to detect, but some people notice constant pain in their abdomen, back pain and a pulse near their belly button. There are a number of factors that play a role in developing an AAA, with the condition more prevalent in men, smokers, those with family history, people over 65 or those who have experienced an aneurysm in another large blood vessel.

The multi-centre randomised placebo controlled trial is taking place across Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the UK and is being supported by The George Institute for Global Health, National Health and Medical Research Council Australia (NHMRC) and James Cook University, Australia.

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