Conference Coverage

Adalimumab strikes out for aortic inflammation in psoriasis



– Adalimumab (Humira) did not reduce aortic inflammation in a year-long, randomized trial that pitted the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker against phototherapy and placebo in 97 psoriasis patients.

Dr. Joel M. Gelfand, professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia M. Alexander Otto/MDedge News

Dr. Joel M. Gelfand

“Now we have two trials that are definitively negative for TNF inhibitors” reducing aortic inflammation, a risk factor for cardiovascular events, said senior investigator Joel M. Gelfand, MD, a dermatology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

The other trial, from Canada, also found no effect in the ascending aorta after 52 weeks of treatment, but it did find a modest increase in carotid inflammation (J Invest Dermatol. 2017 Aug;137[8]:1638-45).

Both studies used positron emission tomography/computed tomography to assess vascular inflammation.

“We know patients with psoriasis are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. We think the same kind of inflammation that occurs in atherosclerosis occurs in psoriasis, but we are still teasing out the impact of therapy and which one is most likely to lower the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and things of that nature,” Dr. Gelfand said at the International Investigative Dermatology meeting. The study was published when he gave his presentation (Circ Cardiovasc Imaging. 2018 Jun. doi: 10.1161/CIRCIMAGING.117.007394).

Although it didn’t reduce aortic inflammation, adalimumab had a positive effect on glycoprotein acetylation, a marker of inflammation and subclinical cardiovascular disease in psoriasis. Observational studies have also reported a drop in cardiovascular events with adalimumab. Taken together, the mixed findings “give us pause for thought,” Dr. Gelfand said.

In a previous trial, he and his colleagues had found that the interleukin blocker ustekinumab (Stelara) reduced aortic inflammation in psoriasis by about 19%, but Dr. Gelfand said at the meeting that it’s too early to opt for ustekinumab over adalimumab for cardiovascular protection: “I don’t think we are quite there yet; we are still not certain.”

Following washout of psoriasis treatments, the 97 subjects were randomized to either adalimumab for 12 months or ultraviolet B phototherapy or placebo for 12 weeks, followed by adalimumab for 12 months.

Aortic inflammation was used as a proxy for cardiovascular events because trials to assess actual event rates would require thousands of patients treated for several years. “They’re not likely to be done in psoriasis any time soon,” Dr. Gelfand said.

At both 12 and 52 weeks, adalimumab patients had no change in aortic inflammation, compared with placebo and baseline. Phototherapy patients had a 4% drop from baseline at 12 weeks, but it was not statistically significant when compared with placebo.

Both adalimumab and phototherapy decreased systemic inflammation as gauged by serum C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 levels, but only adalimumab reduced TNF levels and glycoprotein acetylation at 12 and 52 weeks. Neither treatment affected insulin, adiponectin, or leptin levels. Adalimumab dropped HDL cholesterol a bit, a known side effect, while phototherapy increased it.

About half of the patients in both treatment arms had a 75% reduction in the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index at 12 weeks, compared with 7% of those on placebo. Subjects were aged 43 years, on average, and more than two-thirds were men. They had a mean psoriasis duration of 17 years and a baseline PASI score of 19.


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