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Major advance in treatment of stroke, with drug commonly used for heart attack patients

Study shows a heart attack drug can become the standard treatment for acute ischemic stroke.
Canadian researchers show a clot-busting drug used for heart attacks is an effective treatment for certain types of strokes. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

In the largest stroke clinical trial ever run in Canada, researchers have shown Tenecteplase (TNK), a safe, well-tolerated drug commonly used as a clot buster for heart attacks, is an effective treatment for acute ischemic stroke. Led by researchers with the University of Calgary and University of Toronto, the study included 1,600 patients at hospitals throughout Canada. Edmonton-area hospitals were major contributors to the study too.

“These findings could revolutionize stroke treatment throughout the world,” said University of Calgary professor Dr. Bijoy Menon, co-principal investigator on the study. “Tenecteplase is known to be an effective clot-dissolving drug. It is very easy to administer which makes it a game changer when seconds count to save brain cells.”

“One of the reasons TNK is so effective is that in can be administered as a single immediate dose,” said University of Toronto professor and co-principal investigator Dr. Rick Swartz. “That’s a big advantage, saving critical time and complication. TNK could potentially be administered wherever the patient is seen first, at a medical centre or small hospital.”

Currently, alteplase (tPA) is the recommended drug for acute ischemic stroke patients; however, the drug is administered over an hour and requires a cumbersome infusion pump that needs to be monitored.

The results published in The Lancet show that TNK worked as well as, if not better than, the current standard of care. 

The study involved 22 primary and comprehensive stroke centres across Canada and was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Alberta Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR), Alberta Innovates, Heart and Stroke, Quality Improvement and Clinical Research Alberta Stroke Program (QuICR), Alberta Innovates, Heart and Stroke and the Canadian Stroke Consortium.

With files from University of Calgary and University of Alberta