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Vol. LVIII, No. 2
January 27, 2006

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NIA Scientists Honored for Stent Development

Cardiologists may be able to improve outcomes in heart patients with a drug-coated stent based on an invention by National Institute on Aging senior investigator Dr. Steven J. Sollott and former NIA senior investigator Dr. James Kinsella. Sollott and Kinsella recently were recognized for their innovation in this area with two awards.

The Intellectual Property Owners Association named the duo as one of the top five contenders for its Inventor of the Year award last June. The top-five citation is the first for an NIH nominee. Last September, the Federal Laboratories Consortium bestowed its regional award on Sollott and Kinsella for inventing a new way to use a cancer drug that was incorporated into a drug-coated stent. The award recognizes laboratory employees who have accomplished outstanding work in the process of transferring a technology developed by a federal laboratory to the commercial marketplace.

The medical device, Taxus Express2, approved in 2004 by the Food and Drug Administration, consists of a stent coated with paclitaxel, the chemotherapy drug also known as taxol. After angioplasty, a tiny mesh-like device called a stent is inserted into the artery to keep it propped open. The drug paclitaxel is enclosed in a timed-release polymer so that it is dispensed into the tissue slowly to prevent restenosis, the re-blocking of the artery. In several studies, researchers have found that the drug-device combination reduced restenosis rates to as low as 3 to 6 percent, compared to rates in patients with bare-stent angioplasty of 25 to 30 percent. This reduction has resulted in far fewer return visits to the catheterization lab or operating room for cardiac patients, the researchers note. The long road to discovery began in 1993, when Sollott and Kinsella reasoned that since changes that occur in blood vessel cells after angioplasty mimic the changes seen in cancer cells (abnormal growth, movement, etc.), a diluted form of paclitaxel might be used to inhibit restenosis.

The device is one of a new generation of coated stents. In 2003, Cordis Corp., a Johnson & Johnson company, received approval from the FDA for its stent coated with sirolimus, a drug usually used to prevent rejection in organ transplants. Drug-coated stents, which are currently estimated to be used in more than 500,000 cases in the U.S. annually, are expected to substantially reduce the number of open-heart bypass surgeries.