New horizons for cholesterol ester transfer protein inhibitors

Gregory G Schwartz
Current Atherosclerosis Reports 2012, 14 (1): 41-8
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels bear an inverse relationship to cardiovascular risk. To date, however, no intervention specifically targeting HDL has been demonstrated to reduce cardiovascular risk. Cholesterol ester transfer protein (CETP) mediates transfer of cholesterol ester from HDL to apolipoprotein B-containing particles. Most, but not all observational cohort studies indicate that genetic polymorphisms of CETP associated with reduced activity and higher HDL cholesterol levels are also associated with reduced cardiovascular risk. Some, but not all studies indicate that CETP inhibition in rabbits retards atherosclerosis, whereas transgenic CETP expression in mice promotes atherosclerosis. Torcetrapib, the first CETP inhibitor to reach phase III clinical development, was abandoned due to excess mortality associated with increases in aldosterone and blood pressure. Two other CETP inhibitors have entered phase III clinical development. Anacetrapib is a potent inhibitor of CETP that produces very large increases in HDL cholesterol and large reductions in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, beyond those achieved with statins. Dalcetrapib is a less potent CETP inhibitor that produces smaller increases in HDL cholesterol with minimal effect on LDL cholesterol. Both agents appear to allow efflux of cholesterol from macrophages to HDL in vitro, and neither agent affects blood pressure or aldosterone in vivo. Two large cardiovascular outcomes trials, one with anacetrapib and one with dalcetrapib, should provide a conclusive test of the hypothesis that inhibition of CETP decreases cardiovascular risk.

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