Nearly 800,000 Americans suffer from a stroke each year – every 4 minutes, someone loses their life as a result of stroke, making it one of the leading causes of death in the United States. For those who survive their stroke, the damage is often long-term and significant, with an impact that can be felt among their families and communities.
A stroke is caused by restricted blood flow to the brain, either from a clot (which is called an ischemic stroke) or a burst blood vessel (a hemorrhagic stroke). The resulting hypoxia drives the death of millions of neurons per minute, leading to physical impairment and, too often, death for the stroke victim. These two very different causes – clot or bleed — produce almost identical symptoms and there are very few treatment options. Treatment is especially complicated by the difference between ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, which can only be done by sophisticated imaging equipment in major hospital settings.
The only currently approved acute stroke drug, tPA, which helps dissolve blood clots, can only be used in ischemic stroke — giving it can be harmful in hemorrhagic stroke. This delays treatment, costing precious time as doctors work to determine what kind of stroke they are dealing with. TSC, however, shows safety and efficacy in both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, meaning that it could be given while the patient is still in the ambulance, saving hours. Toward that goal, we are fortunate to be working with Dr. Jeffrey Saver, Director of the Stroke Program at UCLA. Dr. Saver is a world-renowned expert in the design of stroke clinical trials, with a specialty in ambulance based studies.
The FDA recently approved the protocol for an innovative, Phase 2 in-ambulance trial led by researchers at UCLA and UVA which will involve 23 hospitals and 150 medical transport groups providing front-line treatment to patients suffering from stroke.