Thrombolytic agents for acute ischaemic stroke treatment: the past, present and future.
Balami JS., Chen R., Sutherland BA., Buchan AM.
Despite advances in the diagnosis and treatment of acute ischaemic stroke in the past two decades, stroke has remained the third cause of mortality and the single leading cause of disability worldwide. The immediate goal of acute ischaemic stroke therapy is to salvage the ischaemic penumbra through recanalisation of the occluded cerebral blood vessel. This is currently achieved through thrombolytics, which are pharmacological agents that can break up a clot blocking the flow of blood. To date, the only approved thrombolytic for treatment of acute ischaemic stroke is recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (alteplase, rt-PA), however, alteplase is substantially underused because of concerns regarding adverse bleeding risk. This limitation has fuelled the search for other thrombolytic agents, which display greater fibrin dependence and selectivity, but lack detrimental effects within the central nervous system. Development of alternative fibrinolytic agents that might be easier and safer to administer could lead to wider acceptance and use of thrombolytic therapy for stroke. Although other thrombolytic agents (e.g. streptokinase) have failed to show benefit over alteplase, there is still on-going research in search of alternative agents with higher target specificity and better safety profile. The potential thrombolytic agents with trials in progress include desmoteplase, tenecteplase, reteplase, plasmin and microplasmin. This review summarises current therapies with thrombolytics (e.g. alteplase and urokinase), their limitations and side effects, and also discusses ongoing clinical studies with the various potential emerging thrombolytic agents.