Effects of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibition on vascular and systemic inflammation in patients with atherosclerosis

Maysoon Elkhawad, James H.F. Rudd, Lea Sarov-Blat, Gengqian Cai, Richard Wells, L. Ceri Davies, David J. Collier, Michael S. Marber, Robin P. Choudhury, Zahi A. Fayad, Ahmed Tawakol, Fergus V. Gleeson, John J. Lepore, Bill Davis, Robert N. Willette, Ian B. Wilkinson, Dennis L. Sprecher, Joseph Cheriyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study sought to determine the effects of a p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitor, losmapimod, on vascular inflammation, by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography/computed tomography imaging. Background: The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade plays an important role in the initiation and progression of inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis. Methods: Patients with atherosclerosis on stable statin therapy (n = 99) were randomized to receive losmapimod 7.5 mg once daily (lower dose [LD]), twice daily (higher dose [HD]) or placebo for 84 days. Vascular inflammation was assessed by FDG positron emission tomography/computed tomography imaging of the carotid arteries and aorta; analyses focused on the index vessel (the artery with the highest average maximum tissue-to-background ratio [TBR] at baseline). Serum inflammatory biomarkers and FDG uptake in visceral and subcutaneous fat were also measured. Results: The primary endpoint, change from baseline in average TBR across all segments in the index vessel, was not significantly different between HD and placebo (ΔTBR: -0.04 [95% confidence interval [CI]: -0.14 to +0.06], p = 0.452) or LD and placebo (ΔTBR: -0.02 [95% CI: -0.11 to +0.06], p = 0.579). However, there was a statistically significant reduction in average TBR in active segments (TBR <1.6) (HD vs. placebo: ΔTBR: -0.10 [95% CI: -0.19 to -0.02], p = 0.0125; LD vs. placebo: ΔTBR: -0.10 [95% CI: -0.18 to -0.02], p = 0.0194). The probability of a segment being active was also significantly reduced for HD when compared with placebo (OR: 0.57 [95% CI: 0.41 to 0.81], p = 0.002). Within the HD group, reductions were observed in placebo-corrected inflammatory biomarkers including high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (% reduction: -28% [95% CI: -46 to -5], p = 0.023) as well as FDG uptake in visceral fat (ΔSUV: -0.05 [95% CI: -0.09 to -0.01], p = 0.018), but not subcutaneous fat. Conclusions: Despite nonsignificant changes for the primary endpoint of average vessel TBR, HD losmapimod reduced vascular inflammation in the most inflamed regions, concurrent with a reduction in inflammatory biomarkers and FDG uptake in visceral fat. These results suggest a systemic anti-inflammatory effect. (A Study to Evaluate the Effects of 3 Months Dosing With GW856553, as Assessed FDG-PET/CT Imaging; NCT00633022)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-922
Number of pages12
JournalJACC: Cardiovascular Imaging
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • atherosclerosis
  • biomarkers
  • imaging
  • inflammation
  • p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibition
  • randomized controlled trial


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