Psoriasis is associated with systemic inflammation, which heightens the risk of blood vessel disease and diabetes. Therefore, the finding, while notable, may not have been entirely unexpected. Biologic therapy (BT) for psoriasis was already found to be favorably associated with luminal coronary plaque, the researchers say, but it was not clear whether those associations were attributable to direct anti-inflammatory effects on the coronary arteries. They wanted to find out whether the perivascular fat attenuation index (FAI) would offer clues. FAI is a new method of analyzing CT scans by assessing whether the fat tissue surrounding arteries becomes attenuated, or less fatty.
The researchers investigated their premise in 134 participants from an ongoing NIH study, the Psoriasis Atherosclerosis Cardiometabolic Initiative cohort. Of the participants, 82 had been receiving anti-tumor necrosis factor α, anti-interleukin (IL) 12/23, or anti-IL-17 for 1 year. The remaining 52 had not received any BT, and given topical or light therapy. The patients underwent CT scans at the start of the study and 1 year later. All of the patients had low cardiovascular risk. At baseline, 27 in the treated group and 19 in the untreated group had a focal coronary atherosclerotic plaque.
The study found that an abnormal perivascular FAI was linked to a 6- to 9-fold increased risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, study coauthor Charalambos Antoniades, MD, says. Patients on BT had a significant decrease in FAI at 1 year, as well as improved psoriasis symptoms. Even patients with preexisting coronary artery plaque had a reduction in coronary inflammation after BT. No change was seen in the untreated patients. The associations with FAI were independent of the presence of coronary plaque and were consistent among patients receiving different biologic agents.
The researchers say their findings have implications for other chronic inflammatory diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, which are known to raise the risk for heart attacks and stroke.