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Excellence in cardiology investigations

The Brian Maurer Young Investigator Award is one of the highlights of the Irish Cardiac Society’s Annual Scientific Conference and AGM and the four presenters at the Society’s 70th conference maintained the level of excellence that has come to be expected from this part of the meeting, said the adjudicators.

Chaired by ICS President Prof Jim Crowley, this year’s session was adjudicated by distinguished and world-renowned cardiologists Prof Salim Yusuf, Prof Simon Ray and Prof John Harold and the attendees first heard from Dr Paul Brennan of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, on the topic ‘Predictors and impact of pacemaker implantation following Tavi: The Northern Irish Dataset’.

The next presentation was delivered by Dr Thomas Hennessy of Galway University Hospital and formerly of Royal Perth Hospital, Australia, who delivered a talk titled ‘The low-dose colchicine after myocardial infarction (Lodoco-Mi) study: A pilot randomised placebo-controlled trial of colchicine following myocardial infarction’.

The third presentation of the session was by Dr Louisa O’Neill of King’s College London, who spoke on the theme ‘Characterisation of the structural and electrical impact of an atrial septal defect’.

The final presentation of the session was delivered by Dr Sean Esmonde of the Belfast Trust and was titled ‘Pace and ablate for poorly-controlled AF – How does it affect heart failure metrics?’

At the President’s dinner later on the same day, Prof Crowley announced that after careful and thorough deliberation, Dr Hennessy was awarded the Young Investigator Award for his presentation. He also lauded the overall quality of the presentations and acknowledged the high standard of work displayed by all the presenters.

Speaking with the Medical Independent (MI), Dr Hennessy expressed his satisfaction at receiving the award. He commented: “I’m delighted and honoured to receive this award, especially having been away for so long [in Australia] – I would not have dreamed it was possible when I was living in Australia two or three years ago,” he said. “The competition for the award was very stiff and there was a very high standard, as you would expect for an award like this.”

Dr Hennessy also touched on what prompted him to focus on this particular area of research. “The Masters of Clinical Research training opportunity came up for me… there were some terriffic research-oriented people working at Royal Perth Hospital, so it was a combination of being in the right place at the right time. I was very lucky that I had completed my exams and they needed research registrars to take on that role.”

The research area was of special interest to Dr Hennessy, particularly inflammation in acute coronary syndrome and “it’s not often that the opportunity comes around to participate in a double-blind, randomised, controlled trial,” he said. “It was a two-year venture where I recruited patients and followed them up and we gave them either colchicine, which is normally used to treat rheumatological conditions where anti-inflammatory medications are needed. There was good retrospective and observational evidence that colchicine had benefits in people with gout who could take it and that it conferred better cardiovascular outcomes,” Dr Hennessy told MI.

“This question that was then taken forward prospectively in trials – patients who have gout and take colchicine seem to do better than patients with similar age and comorbidities and the one common denominator was colchicine.”

Colchicine was given to a number of patients, predominantly those who had suffered their first heart attack, as well as the usual agents that such patients would be administered. “Ours was a pilot study, so it was basically looking at inflammatory suppression over the short-term, over that one month after the myocardial infarction, in an effort to suppress inflammation and theoretically reduce their clinical risk. We looked at a number of inflammatory markers, predominantly CRP. The trial was neutral in the end but it did show that colchicine, on top of the usual medications after a heart attack – it’s feasible to say that it was well-tolerated and did not impact on compliance with the standard medications,” he said.

“Its mechanism of action specifically is that it targets a cytokine known to drive atherosclerotic disease… there is also a landmark trial that uses a newer monoclonal antibody, a very expensive, high-end medication which targets the same marker as our trial, but ours is a potentially more cost-effective and economically feasible alternative.”

Dr Hennessy also expressed his gratitude to the staff at his department in Galway University Hospital for their support and help in preparing for the Young Investigator Award.

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