Conference Coverage

Effective psoriasis therapy may reduce coronary plaque burden




CHICAGO – Improvement in psoriasis was associated with a significant reduction in coronary plaque burden within 1 year in a pilot study conducted at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Joseph B. Lerman reported at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

“If you look at psoriatic plaque on the skin, it’s spewing out cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor–alpha and interleukin-17 which are highly linked to atherosclerosis. What we’ve found is that if you treat those plaques and reduce the severity of psoriasis, we’ve noticed small but statistically significant regression in the early noncalcified plaque. It’s a very exciting observation,” said Mr. Lerman, a medical student at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

Joseph B. Lerman Bruce Jancin/Frontline Medical News

Joseph B. Lerman

He presented an observational study involving 50 consecutive patients with mild to moderate psoriasis of roughly 20 years duration and a median baseline Framingham Risk Score of 4. They underwent measurement of coronary plaque burden by coronary CT angiography at baseline and 1 year later.

During the study year, 33 patients showed significant improvement in their psoriasis as reflected in a decline in their mean Psoriasis Area and Severity Index score from 5.6 to 3.1. Those patients also showed significant improvement in their total and noncalcified plaque burden, with total plaque burden adjusted for luminal attenuation declining from 126 mm2 to 117 mm2. The association remained significant even after adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, the use of statin therapy, body mass index, and the use of systemic psoriasis therapies, including biologic agents.

Importantly, the reduction in plaque burden appeared to be largely concentrated in the subgroup of 31 patients on methotrexate or a biologic. And while this was a naturalistic observational study, the investigators have followed up with a prospective study of psoriasis patients placed on tumor necrosis factor inhibitors and confirmed that they, too, experienced a reduction in coronary plaque as measured by coronary CT angiography.

The investigators plan to expand the size of the study in order to confirm the findings. Mr. Lerman said the next question they would like to address is, how early does a measurable reduction in coronary plaque burden occur in response to clinical improvement in psoriasis? In order to explore this, the investigators will have to obtain institutional approval of a new investigative protocol which permits more frequent use of coronary CT angiography. At present the imaging study can be conducted only once per year due to the radiation exposure.

Mr. Lerman was involved in the psoriasis study while participating in the National Institutes of Health Medical Research Scholars Program. Senior investigator in the pilot study was Dr. Nehal Mehta, chief of the Section of Inflammation and Metabolic Disease at NHLBI in Bethesda, Md.

Mr. Lerman reported having no financial conflicts of interest.

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