A potent chemotherapy that is highly effective in treating the most common form of childhood leukemia can significantly harm the heart. However, new research shows that adding an experimental drug to the therapy can reduce or even prevent the heart damage without lessening the effect of the chemotherapy.
Researchers say if long term studies confirm their results, this would be the first strategy proven to reduce the heart problems that some acute lymphoblastic leukemia survivors develop years after being treated with doxorubicin (Adriamycin).
For the study, 101 participants were treated with doxorubicin alone. Another 105 participants received doxorubicin with dexrazoxane (Zinecard), an experimental drug shown to be cardioprotective in adults who receive chemotherapy. Half of the children in the doxorubicin-only group had elevated levels of troponin T, a protein that is elevated when the heart has been injured. In the children who received the combination, only 21 percent had elevated troponin T levels.
Extremely elevated troponin T levels, indicating more severe heart-muscle injury, occurred in 32 percent of the doxorubicin-only patients but in just 10 percent of those who received the protective drug. In addition, dexrazoxane did not reduce doxorubicin's ability to cure the children.
However researchers say this is not a perfect solution but it is promising as it is found to reduce the incidence of heart damage from 50 percent to about 25 percent with dexrazoxane .