The Utility of Plasma Vascular Biomarkers in Systemic Sclerosis: A Prospective Longitudinal Analysis

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Objective: In cross-sectional studies, pulmonary hypertension (PH) and ischemic digital lesions are 2 scleroderma vascular outcomes associated with abnormalities in biomarkers of angiogenesis. The clinical usefulness of these biomarkers is unknown, in part due to lack of data on longitudinal measurement. This prospective longitudinal study was undertaken to evaluate vascular biomarker measurements in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) over time. Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 300 patients with SSc who were followed up for at least a 5-year period and lacked evidence of PH and/or active ischemic digital lesions at enrollment. Levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), soluble Flt-1 (sFlt-1), soluble endoglin, endostatin, and placental growth factor (PLGF) were obtained at multiple time points and assessed for their ability to predict the development of PH/ischemic digital lesions. Hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated. Results: Forty-six patients (15%) developed PH and 69 patients (23%) developed an ischemic digital lesion. In time-to-event analyses, the following 3 biomarkers measured at cohort entry were found to be significantly associated with the development of PH: HGF (HR 1.99 [95% CI 1.24–3.17], P = 0.004), sFlt-1 (HR 3.04 [95% CI 1.29–7.14], P = 0.011), and PLGF (HR 2.74 [95% CI 1.32–5.69], P = 0.007). As time approaching PH diagnosis decreased, there was no corresponding increase in any biomarker level. Upon converting each continuous vascular biomarker into a binary variable, a dose-response relationship was observed for the number of elevated biomarkers at cohort entry and the risk of developing PH. With each additional elevated biomarker at cohort entry, there was a 78% increase in the risk of developing PH (HR 1.78 [95% CI 1.2–2.6], P = 0.004). Conclusion: These data suggest that molecules involved in angiogenesis reflect vascular perturbation, and that elevations in these biomarkers at first encounter can indicate patients who are at risk of PH development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1341-1349
Number of pages9
JournalArthritis and Rheumatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology


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