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Cardiotoxicity risks vary per chemotherapy type

Chemotherapy can be damaging for the heart. The higher the dose, the greater the chance that an ex-cancer patient will develop heart issues later in life. There are, however, different types of chemotherapy. One type appears to be more harmful than the others, write Princess Máxima Center scientists in the medical journal JAMA Oncology.

More than 50% of children with cancer are treated with anthracyclines, a class of chemotherapy drugs. Four different types of anthracyclines are commonly used. "While all four are effective against cancer cells, they are also harmful to the heart," says researcher Lieke Feijen. “Therefore we monitor the heart condition of survivors on the LATER-poli. Whether all of the anthracyclines are equally harmful to the heart has been unclear.”

Risks of Cardiotoxicity

To determine the damage of these drugs on the heart, the scientists analyzed over 28,000 five-year childhood cancer survivors from the U.S. and the Netherlands. They looked at the treatment the children had received and the condition of the heart. Based on the results, the most harmful anthracycline appears to carry 20 times more risk than the mildest anthracycline.

"That may have direct consequences for the treatment of new childhood cancer patients," predicts Feijen, "however, further research is still required. Naturally, the least harmful anthracycline must be just as effective against the cancer. And that can vary per cancer type. The patient's recovery still remains highest priority."