Predictive Added Value of Selected Plasma Lipids to a Re-estimated Minimal Risk Tool

Front Cardiovasc Med. 2021 Jul 16;8:682785. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2021.682785. eCollection 2021.


Background: Lipidomics is emerging for biomarker discovery in cardiovascular disease, and circulating lipids are increasingly incorporated in risk models to predict cardiovascular events. Moreover, specific classes of lipids, such as sphingomyelins, ceramides, and triglycerides, have been related to coronary artery disease (CAD) severity and plaque characteristics. To avoid unnecessary testing, it is important to identify individuals at low CAD risk. The only pretest model available so far to rule out the presence of coronary atherosclerosis in patients with chest pain, but normal coronary arteries, is the minimal risk tool (MRT). Aim: Using state-of-the-art statistical methods, we aim to verify the additive predictive value of a set of lipids, derived from targeted plasma lipidomics of suspected CAD patients, to a re-estimated version of the MRT for ruling out the presence of coronary atherosclerosis assessed by coronary CT angiography (CCTA). Methods: Two hundred and fifty-six subjects with suspected stable CAD recruited from five European countries within H2020-SMARTool, undergoing CCTA and blood sampling for clinical biochemistry and lipidomics, were selected. The MRT was validated by regression methods and then re-estimated (reMRT). The reMRT was used as a baseline model in a likelihood ratio test approach to assess the added predictive value of each lipid from 13 among ceramides, triglycerides, and sphingomyelins. Except for one lipid, the analysis was carried out on more than 240 subjects for each lipid. A sensitivity analysis was carried out by considering two alternative models developed on the cohort as baseline models. Results: In 205 subjects, coronary atherosclerosis ranged from minimal lesions to overt obstructive CAD, while in 51 subjects (19.9%) the coronary arteries were intact. Four triglycerides and seven sphingomyelins were significantly (p < 0.05) and differentially expressed in the two groups and, at a lesser extent, one ceramide (p = 0.067). The probability of being at minimal risk was significantly better estimated by adding either Cer(d18:1/16:0) (p = 0.01), SM(40:2) (p = 0.04), or SM(41:1) at a lesser extent (p = 0.052) to reMRT than by applying the reMRT alone. The sensitivity analysis confirmed the relevance of these lipids. Furthermore, the addition of SM(34:1), SM(38:2), SM(41:2), and SM(42:4) improved the predictive performance of at least one of the other baseline models. None of the selected triglycerides was found to provide an added value. Conclusions: Plasma lipidomics can be a promising source of diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in cardiovascular disease, exploitable not only to assess the risk of adverse events but also to identify subjects without coronary atherosclerosis, thus reducing unnecessary further testing in normal subjects.

Keywords: biomarkers evaluation; coronary artery disease; coronary computed tomography angiography; likelihood ratio test; lipidomics; pre-test clinical models.