The translational research of Douglas L. Packer, M.D., focuses on the mechanisms and ablation of atrial fibrillation and other cardiac arrhythmias, autologous fibroblast modulation of electrical impulse propagation in the heart, and the development of external beam carbon and proton particle catheter-free ablation of arrhythmias.
- Atrial fibrillation. This common arrhythmia is associated with an increased risk of stroke and death. Despite advances in drug therapy, atrial fibrillation continues to impose substantial health and economic burdens on society. In recent years, percutaneous catheter-based ablation procedures have been developed to modify atrial tissue and thereby eliminate atrial fibrillation. Recently completed randomized trials have shown that percutaneous catheter ablation substantially reduces the likelihood of recurrence of atrial fibrillation compared with conventional drug therapy. Dr. Packer is studying whether percutaneous catheter ablation also has a favorable effect on survival, stroke, quality of life and health care costs.
- Ventricular tachycardia. Dr. Packer is working to develop new means of treating ventricular tachycardia — a problem that affects up to 100,000 patients a year who already have defibrillators that are not working to perfection. Dr. Packer co-developed a needle electrode catheter, which allows for the extension of a heated saline via needle tip into the tissue to create larger lesions. Research has proven this is better than contact force ablation and Thermocool ablation. Dr. Packer and colleagues are also developing extracorporeal ablation for ventricular tachycardia and atrial fibrillation using proton or carbon beam particle therapy to ablate through the body's surface. With this method no intracardiac catheters are required.
- The Catheter Ablation Versus Anti-Arrhythmic Drug Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation (CABANA) Trial. Dr. Packer is the principal investigator for this multicenter randomized trial comparing the effect of percutaneous catheter ablation versus current state-of-the-art drug therapy on total mortality, disabling stroke, serious bleeding or cardiac arrest as the primary endpoint. The CABANA Trial will look at total mortality as the key secondary endpoint along with quality of life and health care costs.
- Biophysics of ablation using special catheters for ventricular arrhythmias. Dr. Packer is investigating the source of stroke event occurrence during radiofrequency ablation with irrigation tip, laser or cryo, and other catheters. His clinical work investigates 4- and 5-D-integrated image-guided ablation, and the development of new energy sources for the modification of cardiac tissue.
- External photon beam and carbon beam radiation. Dr. Packer's present research seeks to investigate whether external photon beam and carbon beam radiation can be used to successfully target arrhythmogenic cardiac tissue and produce sustained, as well as controllable, antiarrhythmic effects.
Significance to patient care
The research conducted by Dr. Packer is aimed at developing more-effective therapies for patients with cardiac arrhythmias and diseases, thus increasing survival rates and quality of life. His research also contributes to lowering the cost of health care by implementing treatments that decrease recurrence rates and are minimally invasive.
- Editorial board member, Heart Rhythm Journal, 2007-present
- Member, Board of Trustees, Heart Rhythm Society, 2003-present
- Editorial board member, American Heart Journal, 1995-present
- Fellow, American Heart Association, 1988-present
- Fellow, American College of Cardiology, 1985-present
- President, Heart Rhythm Society, 2010-2011
- Editorial board member, Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, 1996-2010
- Member, Atrial Fibrillation Prevention Working Group, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), 2008
- Member, Special Panel Review Study Section, NHLBI, 2008
- Member, Atrial Fibrillation Ablation Working Group, NHLBI, 2005