CV Risk Biomarkers Tentatively Identified in Psoriatic Disease

Jim Kling

March 11, 2022

The risk of cardiovascular events in patients with psoriatic disease rises with higher levels of two cardiac biomarkers in a manner independent of risk calculated by the Framingham Risk Score (FRS), a longitudinal cohort study has shown. But researchers who conducted the study note that neither of the two biomarkers identified in the study ― cardiac troponin I (cTnI) and N-terminal pro-brain-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) ― led to an improvement in predictive performance when combined with the FRS, despite their association with carotid plaque burden.

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are both associated with greater risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, partly because of systemic inflammation that leads to atherogenesis. Measures of cardiovascular risk such as the FRS rely on traditional measures of cardiovascular risk and thus are likely to underestimate the cardiovascular event risk of people with psoriatic disease, according to the authors of the new study, published online in Arthritis and Rheumatology. The effort was led by Keith Colaço, MSc, Lihi Eder, MD, PhD, and other researchers affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Dr Philip Mease

"We are desperately in need of biomarker science advancement in psoriatic arthritis for a variety of places of guidance: How to choose a medication more accurately for the patient in front of us ― ie, getting to be more like oncologists who use biomarkers to pick the best treatment or combination. That's an important need. A second important need is how to guide clinicians regarding risk prediction for things like persistent, severe disease activity, progressive structural damage from disease, and, in this case, predicting a very common comorbidity that occurs in [psoriasis and] psoriatic arthritis patients," Philip Mease, MD, told Medscape Medical News when asked to comment on the study.

Such biomarkers could assist with patient counseling, according to Mease, who is director of rheumatology research at Swedish Medical Center/Providence St. Joseph Health and is a clinical professor at the University of Washington, both in Seattle. Some patients may struggle with advice to lose weight or adopt lifestyle measures to limit cardiovascular risk, and more accurate predictions of risk may serve as further motivation. "It could well be that if you have a biomarker that accurately predicts a coming cataclysm, that it will lead you to redouble your efforts to do whatever it takes to reduce cardiovascular risk," he said.

Both cTnI and NT-proBNP have been linked to increased cardiovascular risk in the general population, but little work has been done in the context of rheumatologic diseases.

The researchers analyzed data from 358 patients seen at the University of Toronto. The mean follow-up was 3.69 years. After adjustment for CV risk factors, lipid-lowering therapy, and creatinine levels, there was an association between cTnI levels and total carotid plaque area (adjusted β coefficient, 0.21; 95% CI, 0 – 0.41), but not for levels of NT-proBNP.

Atherosclerosis progressed in 89 participants overall, but multivariate adjustment revealed no significant relationship between progression and cTnI or NT-proBNP levels.

Separately, the researchers analyzed 1000 individuals with psoriatic arthritis (n = 648) or with psoriasis and no arthritis (n = 352) whom they followed for a mean of 7.1 years after the patients underwent evaluation during 2002–2019. After adjustment for FRS, there was an association between the risk of a cardiovascular event and each 1 standard deviation increase in both cTnI (hazard ratio [HR], 3.02; 95% CI, 1.12 – 8.16) and NT-proBNP (HR, 2.02; 95% CI, 1.28 – 3.18).

The combination of both biomarkers with the FRS predicted higher CV risk (HR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.23 – 2.97). Neither biomarker made a statistically significant difference in changing CV risk prediction when added individually to FRS, although cTnI trended toward significance (HR, 2.60; 95% CI, 0.98 – 6.87).

Instead of the carotid plaque burden, Mease would have liked to have seen the authors evaluate calcium scores in coronary arteries as measured by CT. "I would have loved to have seen the researchers using that in addition to the carotid plaque assessment, to see what that would show us about these patients," he said.

Only a small number of patients experienced CV events during the study period, which will likely make it necessary to conduct larger studies to identify a clear relationship. "You need a registry-type study with probably many hundreds if not thousands of patients in order to identify whether or not adding troponin could be useful to what we typically measure with patients when we're trying to assess their risk," Mease said.

The study was supported in part by the National Psoriasis Foundation and the Arthritis Society. Individual researchers have received support from a range of sources, including the Enid Walker Estate, the Women's College Research Institute, the Arthritis Society, the National Psoriasis Foundation, the Edward Dunlop Foundation, the Ontario Ministry of Science and Innovation, and a Pfizer Chair Research Award. Some of the researchers have financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies that market drugs for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Arthritis Rheumatol. Published online March 8, 2022. Abstract

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