Northwestern gets $18M to lead largest study on most common type of heart failure

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Chicago-based Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine $18.1 million to lead the largest-ever funded study on heart failure with preserved ejection fraction — a condition that affects 2.5 million people in the U.S.

The funding supports the NIH's newly launched HeartShare program, which will create a new cohort of patients with this specific type of heart failure, also called diastolic heart failure. The program will include six U.S. clinical centers. 

Sanjiv Shah, MD, a professor of cardiology at Feinberg and the director of its cardiovascular institute's clinical trials unit, will receive $16.7 million to lead the HeartShare Data Translation Center, which will coordinate the data for all of the program's six sites, according to an Oct. 6 news release. An additional $1.4 million over the next five years will be awarded to Sadiya Khan, MD, an assistant professor of cardiology and epidemiology at Northwestern's medical school, to direct one of the program's clinical centers.

Research conducted as part of the HeartShare program will explore the biological basis of diastolic heart failure and "set the stage for precision medicine clinical trials" for the disease, Dr. Shah said. 

While the field has seen significant advancements in the care of patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, less progress has been made for patients with diastolic heart failure. 

In this type of heart failure, the squeezing function of a patient's heart is normal, while the left ventricle can no longer relax because the muscle has become stiff. This leads to symptoms such as fluid buildup, shortness of breath and fluid retention, and also affects other organs. 

"As an epidemiologist, I am tremendously excited to be involved in this project, which will combine traditional observational study methods with innovative data science approaches to efficiently provide urgently needed information about biological pathways contributing to heart failure with preserved ejection fraction," said Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, PhD, chief of epidemiology in the preventive medicine department at Feinberg, who will also serve as the multiple principal investigator for Northwestern's HeartShare clinical site. 

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