Protecting the Heart During Chemo

Beta blockers, ACE inhibitors may lower heart failure risk in early-stage breast cancer patients on chemotherapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Chemotherapy can greatly improve cancer patients' chances of survival. But with this treatment comes a serious and equally life-threatening risk: heart failure.

However, a new study from Canada found that two types of heart medications — beta blockers and ACE inhibitors — may effectively prevent cardiovascular damage from chemotherapy in patients with early-stage breast cancer.

"We think this is practice-changing," said study co-author Edith Pituskin, PhD, an assistant professor of oncology at the University of Alberta in Canada, in a press release. "This will improve the safety of the cancer treatment that we provide."

For this study, Dr. Pituskin and team looked at 100 patients with early-stage breast cancer. These patients were randomly assigned to a beta blocker, an ACE inhibitor or placebo for one year.

Cardiac MRIs taken over two years showed that the patients on beta blockers had fewer signs of heart weakening than the patients on placebo. ACE inhibitors were also shown to safeguard patients' hearts.

Lead study author Ian Paterson, MD, a cardiologist at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, said these drugs may also improve breast cancer survival rates by limiting chemotherapy interruptions. When a patient shows signs of heart weakening, Dr. Paterson said, chemotherapy is stopped immediately until heart function returns to normal.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in 8 women in the US will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.

This study was presented Dec. 9 at the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

The Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Alberta Cancer Foundation funded this research. Information on conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

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Review Date: 
December 10, 2015
Last Updated:
December 12, 2015