The survival rate of children with cancer has greatly improved in recent years, allowing these children to grow older and older. “Unfortunately, certain types of chemotherapy (for example, anthracyclines*) and radiation of the region around the heart can lead to damage to heart cells," say pediatric cardiologist Heynric Grotenhuis and researcher Lieke Feijen. “As a result, these children have an increased risk of reduced heart function in later life, which can ultimately lead to heart failure and premature death. We don't know exactly why one child's heart is affected and another child is not. If we would be able to identify the children who develop heart damage at an early stage of their treatment, we can prevent further damage by, for example, giving a lower dose of anthracyclines.”
The EARLY study is conducted among 100 children, at 3 different measuring moments, to find out whether heart damage can be detected at an early stage by means of new advanced ultrasound and MRI techniques. Tim Leiner, expert in advanced cardiac MRI imaging, and Leontien Kremer say, “It is expected that the new techniques will allow us to detect heart damage at and earlier stage. If this is really the case, our study will make a positive contribution to the quality of life of these children in their childhood, but also in their adult life.”
Early detection, prompt treatment
* Anthracyclines damage the DNA of cancer cells. They are very effective, but the downside is that they can cause heart damage.