- Certain medicines like Herceptin for breast cancer treatment may increase the risk of heart damage.
- Researchers find the combination of heart medications along with chemotherapy to prevent cardiovascular damage during breast cancer treatment.
- Beta blockers and ACE inhibitors (Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) show heart protective effects when used with chemotherapy.
A combination of heart medications along with chemotherapy might reduce the risk of cardiovascular damage in breast cancer patients, finds a study from the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services.
Certain medicines like Herceptin improves treatment for breast cancer, but is found to cause a five-fold risk of heart complications.
‘Beta blockers and Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors prevent heart damage during breast cancer treatment.’
The research team funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Alberta Cancer Foundation found beta blockers and ACE inhibitors (Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors) to prevent heart failure during cancer treatment.
The research findings were published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The clinical trial involved 100 early-stage breast cancer patients from Alberta and Manitoba who were randomly given either a beta blocker or ACE inhibitor or placebo drug for one year.
Beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors such as propanolol, labetalol, and enalapril, captopril, ramipril are used for the treatment of hypertension and several other heart conditions.
The findings from the cardiac MRI images obtained in two years were found to show beta blockers and ACE inhibitors to have heart protection activity.
Edith Pituskin, investigator of the trial, said, "We think this is practice-changing," "This will improve the safety of the cancer treatment that we provide."
Lan Paeterson, a cardiologist at Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and professor at the University of Alberta also said, that these medications may help to prevent heart damage and improve breast cancer survival rates. And if there are any heart weakening conditions then chemotherapy can be stopped for two months until the heart functions return to normal.
"We are aiming for two outcomes for these patients--we're hoping to prevent heart failure and we're hoping for them to receive all the chemotherapy that they are meant to get, when they are supposed to get it--to improve their odds of remission and survival."
Concern For Patient's With Family History of Breast Cancer and Heart Diseases
Heart failure patients often complain symptoms of fatigue, difficulties in breathing which might even to lead death. Heart diseases have the worst prognosis when compared to breast cancer.
Brenda Skanes with a family history of heart disease, joined the trial for her health as well as the health of the breast cancer survivors.
"I met survivors through my journey who experienced heart complications caused by Herceptin. If they had access to this, maybe they wouldn't have those conditions now."
"Me participating, it's for the other survivors who are just going into treatment." she said.
Another patient Debbie Cameron from the trial also said, "My daughters are always in the back of my mind and the what ifs--if they're diagnosed, what would make their treatment safer, better."
"Anything I could do to make this easier for anybody else or give some insight to treatment down the road was, to me, a very easy decision."
Stephen Robbins, scientific director of CIHR's Cancer Research Institute said, that the discovery will show hope to improve the women's quality of life and health outcomes, as about 68 women in Canada are being diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
Myka Osinchuk, CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation said, "This clinical research will improve treatment and make life better not only for Albertans facing cancer, but also for those around the world."
Further research is carried on how to prevent heart complications in patients with other types of cancers as well.