Dr. Liam Brunham (right) and Dr. Simon Pimstone (left) are leading a study that could save thousands of lives from the impacts of heart disease.

Save BC

Promise Magazine: Spring/Summer 2016

A new collaborative study is underway to identify ways to predict, treat and reduce cardiovascular disease in high-risk patients and families

by Michelle Hopkins

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in Canada, impacting hundreds of thousands of Canadians, while also accounting for millions of dollars in health care costs each year. A new research study at St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospital aims to improve screening, and ultimately provide enhanced and potentially lifesaving care for genetically predisposed or at-risk individuals and families affected by early onset atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The study, known as SAVE BC (Study to Avoid cardioVascular Events in BC), will also attempt to identify unknown cardiovascular disease risk factors to mitigate, treat and reduce heart disease in high-risk families.

Identifying People at Risk

The SAVE BC study, made possible through joint funding from St. Paul’s Foundation and VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation ($150,000 each), will study the key factors that put people at increased risk of heart attack. In addition, funds have been committed by industry partners Amgen Inc., Merck & Co., Inc., Sanofi-Aventis Canada Inc., the Rx&D Health Research Foundation, as well as the Heart & Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon.

“Through this study we can learn a lot about the nontraditional cardiovascular risks that predispose certain people to cardiac arrests,” says Dr. Liam Brunham, consultant physician at St. Paul’s Hospital Prevention Clinic. It’s an observation and a research imperative that comes into sharp focus when you look at the statistics.

Each year, in BC alone, almost 1,000 men and women experience heart attacks at age 55 or younger. There are many risk factors for heart attack, most notably a family history, high blood cholesterol, high-fat diet, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, but the study hopes to delve even deeper into these factors and beyond to help prevent a potential for heart attack from becoming reality.

“We are talking about women under 55 years of age and men less than 50 years old developing symptoms,” says Dr. Simon Pimstone, physician in the UBC Hospital Medical Clinic. “During our research we will also study their first degree relatives—parents, siblings or children, and spouses who are known to be at increased risk.”

Saving Lives and Costs of Care

This research collaboration between Brunham and Pimstone not only has the potential to save lives, it could also save the health care system considerable costs by identifying more cost-effective treatments and strategies.

“To do that, identifying risk factors and lessening risk is crucial,” says Brunham.

Phase 1 of SAVE BC will involve St. Paul’s and Vancouver General Hospital, with plans to expand the study to include hospitals throughout BC over the next three to five years.

“This is a very exciting project,” says Pimstone, “and if we get this right, we will be able to illustrate outcomes that should be applicable to other life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and other diseases with genetic components.”

To support cardiovascular research at St. Paul’s please contact St. Paul’s Foundation at 604-682-8206 or donate online at www.helpstpauls.com/donate