Preventing a heart attack is just a shot away?

What a way to get media coverage: say heart attack and vaccine in the same sentence and it's all over the media. But with around 17 million people dying each year from cardiovascular disease worldwide, and the impact on quality of life for many survivors, the idea of a vaccine against heart attacks is very tempting. At the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology 2012 meeting in London, professor Jan Nilsson suggested that vaccines and monoclonal antibodies to treat atherosclerosis could be a groundbreaking approach.

"People at high risk of MI are likely to be the first candidates for immune approaches. Such treatments, since they've totally different modes of action, could be used in addition to the current therapies," explained Nilsson, who is professor of Experimental Cardiovascular Research at Lund University, Sweden, and a key player in the development of immune treatments.

Nilsson, with collaborators, is behind the peptide vaccine CVX-210, which is in development in a subcutaneous and a nasal version with the company CardioVax. This is made up of fragments of Apolipoprotein B, which is involved in atherosclerosis, and the company is planning Phase I trials for the subcutaneous form. There are also monoclonal antibodies in development in atherosclerosis, targeting oxidized LDL. This includes BioInvent and Genentech's BI-204 monoclonal antibody, which is in Phase II trials.

Nilsson said: "If all goes well, the first in class of these treatments could be licensed within 4 to 5 years."

The key phrase there is "if all goes well," but with increasing levels of obesity worldwide and growing numbers of people with heart disease in the developing world, new approaches, especially ones that can treat early atherosclerosis and prevent it from getting worst, will always be valuable. (Image courtesy of the European Society of Cardiology)

- read the press release