Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs

Medical Breakthroughs
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When an artery is blocked, doctors often perform angioplasty to open it up and use a mesh tubing called a tent to keep it open. While that was a great medical advancement, doctors have been frustrated because in many patients the artery clogs back up. New research finds a breast cancer drug may be the answer to this heart disease complications.

At age 51, Ronnie Little decided it was time for a physical. Doctors immediately found a problem with his heart.

"They told me I'd had a heart attack. I must have had it in my sleep, because I don't remember having it," Little tells Ivanhoe.

Two of his blood vessels were blocked. He needed mesh tubes called stents in each artery to get his blood flowing again.

Cardiologist Joel Greenberg, M.D., put in Little's stents, but the two stents may not be the same. As part of a clinical study, one of the stents in his arteries could be coated with paclitaxel, a drug commonly used to treat breast cancer.

"We will get an inpatient comparison of with and without drug covering," says Dr. Greenberg, of Florida Hospital in Orlando.

When the stent is inserted, it opens the artery, but it also causes the artery to form scar tissue. In up to 40 percent of the patients, the tissue clogs the artery again.

Dr. Greenberg says preliminary research shows paclitaxel helps prevent the overgrowth of scar tissue. "Nothing has answered the question of re-narrowing inside an artery due to excessive tissue growth. This is probably the silver bullet that's going to do that for us and dramatically improve patient outcomes."

Little hopes it will help him avoid open-heart surgery. Meanwhile he's trying to be healthy with a new diet and exercise program, because he knows he's been given a second chance, "Very lucky. Very lucky."

Approximately 100 medical facilities are taking part in this clinical trial. As part of the study, the patients will be followed for five years.