Can We Protect the Heart from Chemo?

Adriamycin-related heart damage may be predictable

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Adriamycin (doxorubicin) can be a good chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. But, for some women, it can lead to heart damage. A recent study found a way to predict who is at risk.

A conference presentation in December looked at blood factors might be able to predict who is at risk for heart damage. People with lower levels of a resilience factor were more likely to show some signs of heart damage after Adriamycin treatment.

If this strategy works, doctors may be able to use treatments to help prevent heart damage in people at risk.

"Ask your oncologist about treatment risks."

The study presentation, led by Maryam Lustberg, MD, at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, was reviewed in a recent press release. The researchers measured blood factors and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart to look at heart health.These tests were done before, during and after a two month treatment with Adriamycin.

They looked specifically at a factor called endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) circulating in blood.  EPC levels are used to help predict recovery after heart attack because they are a measure of how resilient or strong the heart is.

They measured two other factors that can signal heart damage.  When levels of brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) are high, it can mean that the heart is failing. Troponin levels go up when heart cells are not functioning properly.

The researchers found that patients with lower levels of EPC at the start of the study had higher levels of troponin after treatment. So people who had less resilience showed some damage to heart cells after having Adriamycin treatment.

Researchers are planning to follow up with the original patients over the next two years to track longer term changes in heart function.

The researchers hope that this simple blood test may help show who is at risk for heart damage after treatment with Adriamycin.

Knowing who is at risk may help doctors plan medical care in ways that may help protect the heart from damage.

This study was presented on December 6 at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS). Because the study was presented at conference, it may not have been reviewed for accuracy from other experts in the field.

SABCS is sponsored by the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at UT Health Science Center San Antonio and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

The study was funded by Ohio State Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS).

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Review Date: 
December 27, 2012
Last Updated:
December 30, 2012