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Can medication slow growth of abdominal aortic aneurysms?

University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center studies potential first medical therapy for AAAs

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A new clinical study at the University of Michigan Health System will test the ability of a once daily dose of doxycycline to reduce the growth of small abdominal aortic aneurysms.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge in a section of the aorta, the body’s main artery. The risk of rupture of aneurysms is unpredictable, and mortality is high when they do.

The U-M’s Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the only health center in the state selected to participate in the national clinical trial investigating what could be the first medical therapy available in the high-stakes course of treating aneurysms.

Surgical repair may become necessary when an aortic aneurysm reaches a certain size or causes symptoms, but surgery is not an option for all aortic patients.

“It’s a really exciting trial examining options for the patients who are relegated to watching and waiting,” says University of Michigan vascular surgeon Jonathan Eliason, M.D., associate professor of surgery.  “If this medicine is effective in slowing aneurysm growth rates, it could revolutionize our treatment of AAAs.”

The clinical trial Non-Invasive Treatment of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (N-TA^3CT) will determine whether treatment with doxycycline, an anti-microbial drug, will lead to reduced growth of an aneurysm. 

Animal studies have shown that doxycycline inhibits the action of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes, which have been linked to the development of AAAs.

“The aim is to see if the data gained from animal studies for slowing aneurysm growth holds true for humans,” says Eliason.

Who can participate?

  • Men and postmenopausal women, age 55 and over
  • Currently has an abdominal aortic aneurysm measuring 3.5-5.0 cm in men, 3.5-4.5 cm in women

A normal abdominal aorta is approximately 2.0 cm in diameter -- about the size of a quarter -- but an aneurysm puts stress on the artery walls. The risk of rupture for an AAA over 5.5 cm in diameter is 9 to 10 percent, and over 7 cm the risk increases to more than 30 percent.  

Rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm carries the risk of death near 75 percent, with nearly half of patients who rupture never making it to the hospital.

AAA is more common in men and in those age 65 and older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most effective way to prevent aortic aneurysms is reducing  risk factors including quitting smoking and controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

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For more information, visit

UMClinicalStudies https://umclinicalstudies.org/HUM00054923

Non-Invasive treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm clinical trial (N-TA^3CT) http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01756833

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