Killer enzyme emerges as key target for new drug class

An enzyme known as Lp-PLA2 boosts the risk of stroke and early death, perhaps as much as high blood pressure or bad cholesterol, according to a pair of top scientists at Cambridge University. And their research, published in The Lancet, is putting the spotlight squarely on a new GlaxoSmithKline drug in the clinic that regulates the protein.

"This reinforces interest in this enzyme, and reinforces the need to see the results from these clinical trials," says Alex Thompson, referring to the experimental therapy darapladib. Data from two trials involving 27,000 subjects is expected between 2012 and 2014.

Darapladib is the leading therapy in the pipeline to regulate Lp-PLA2, part of a new class of medications that promises to add significant therapeutic firepower to the cholesterol-lowering drugs now available. And given the fact that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death, the new research underscores the drug's mega-blockbuster potential.

"This enzyme in this study was as strongly associated with heart disease as blood pressure and cholesterol, but we need to be cautious in interpreting that because the associations of blood pressure and cholesterol were themselves substantially lower than we would have expected," Thompson said.

- read the story from Reuters
- here's the article from the BBC