Queen's professor selected to vet groundbreaking research

Queen's professor selected to vet groundbreaking research

July 25, 2013


Queen’s University researcher Stephen Archer was selected by the New England Journal of Medicine to editorialize two, international, randomized clinical trials describing the benefits of a new type of drug to treat two forms of pulmonary hypertension (PH).

The findings were published by an international team of researchers, lead by researchers in Germany. This editorial is a critical appraisal of this new treatment and Dr. Archer, a cardiologist and Head of Medicine at Queen’s University, was selected based on his expertise in the field, both clinically and as a basic scientist. The opportunity to provide context for new therapies like this one is only afforded to the top experts in the field.

Riociguat is the first in a new class of drugs fast-tracked by the Federal Drug Administration. If approved for treatment of pulmonary hypertension, it would join other oral drugs as treatments for this disease. Riociguat is also poised to be the first to treat chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension.

Currently the only treatments for pulmonary hypertension are extremely expensive and provide no remedy.  The treatment for pulmonary hypertension is a surgical procedure which can cure the condition but is available only at specialized centres.

Patients in both studies were randomized to treatment with Riociguat or placebo.  After 12 weeks their walking distance over six minutes was measured and that measurement was used to assess the effect of the drug. The six patients given Riociguat were able to walk between 30 to 45 metres further before becoming short of breath than those given the placebo. In Dr. Archer’s opinion, the drug definitely has benefits, although it is not likely to cure the disease.

“It’s an honour to be asked to render an opinion on this important research,” says Dr. Archer. Once the drug is approved its use will be contextualized in guideline documents, which help specialized physicians decide which PH drug to prescribe.

Riociguat will hopefully be available in Canada in the near future, and it will be used close to home in the pulmonary hypertension clinic at Queen’s.