An effective drug that kills cancer by damaging DNA also attacks heart muscle, which for some patients leads to heart failure. In new research, scientists have discovered how the drug attacks the heart, opening potential new options to prevent or minimize the life-threatening side effect.
Doxorubicin is a 50-year-old chemotherapy drug still in widespread use in combinations to treat a variety of cancers, including breast, ovarian, lung and bladder cancers as well as leukemia and lymphoma.
"However, its use is limited by its cardiotoxicity. We're excited because we've identified the molecular basis for doxorubicin's damage to the heart," said Edward T.H. Yeh, M.D., professor and chair of MD Anderson's Department of Cardiology and senior author of the study reported online today at Nature Medicine.
This knowledge can mobilize researchers to find a way to identify those who are sensitive to heart damage by doxorubicin and either use other drugs, or include cardio-protective drugs and more closely monitor patients.
Another exciting alternative is to develop drugs that only target Top2a, Yeh said. "We want to make sure that cancer patients will have healthy hearts to enjoy their life after successful cancer treatment."