UW Health trial involves injecting stem cells into patients with heart failure

Goal of trial is to improve quality of life

Doctors at UW Health are involved in a clinical trial using stem cells for the treatment of heart failure.

The CardiAMP therapy involves withdrawing a patient’s bone marrow. The bone marrow is then processed on-site to separate the stem cells from the plasma. The patient’s own stem cells are then injected into damaged areas of the heart using a catheter.

“It is hopeful that we can improve things. I don’t think we can necessarily cure the damage, but I think we can improve things,” said Dr. Amish Raval, director of cardiovascular clinical research at UW Health.

The CardiAMP Heart Failure Trial is a phase III study that will eventually enroll up to 260 patients. For the first 10 patients, UW Health is one of three sites nationwide performing the procedure.

“I figured it was possibly going to do something good for me,” said Dan Caulfield, a Madison man enrolled in the study.

Caulfield, who is 81 years old, has had three heart attacks.

“I was 46 years old and had a heart attack. It was called a fatal heart attack in those days,” Caulfield said. “I had two more heart attacks in 2002, and since then it has been sort of downhill.”

Improving the quality of life of individuals with heart failure is a goal of the CardiAMP therapy.

“There is about a 50 percent five-year mortality associated with this condition and those five years can be awfully tough on these folks because they have a lot of problems with shortness of breath, weakness and sometimes chest discomfort while walking. So it is not just a matter of quantity of life, it is also a quality of life issue,” Raval said.

The procedure involves a very targeted injection of stem cells into the area near where the heart is damaged.

“We create a targeted map and based on that targeted map we have a really clear sense of where the damage is. Then it is my task to go in and try to get into the adjacent border areas,” Raval said.

In the U.S. there are approximately 6.5 million people living with heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, that number is expected to rise by 46 percent by the year 2030.

“This is one of the few pivotal trials in the United States that is really, I think, going to pave the way for future studies,” Raval said.

The outcome of the CardiAMP trial will be measured by any change in distance during a six-minute walk 12 months after an initial baseline measurement is taken.