Cancer treatment is a complex and multifaceted area of medicine, and despite it having led to much greater survival rates, there are still many negative health impacts.
Scientists are now a step closer to eliminating one such serious side effect, having identified the proteins in the blood that are the targets of many cancer treatments but are also the common denominator that causes cardiotoxicity.
Cardiotoxicity is heart damage that occurs as the result of certain cancer treatments and drugs. It can develop years after cancer therapies, and can show up in adults that had treatment for cancer during childhood. The damage makes it harder for the heart to pump blood normally and can lead to heart failure.
Adults who had cancer treatment as children are 15 times more likely to suffer from heart disease.
“The proteins identified in our study will help to accelerate future drug development, offering scientists a blueprint for new treatments for both cancer and heart diseases,” said lead author Dr Floriaan Schmidt, from the University College London (UCL) Institute of Cardiovascular Science. “This can help them to be more confident of the effects of the drugs that they design – whether that’s shrinking tumors without causing damage elsewhere or improving the heart’s pumping action.”
The international team looked at data from the UK Biobank, assessing the cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging of 36,548 subjects, excluding those with pre-existing heart conditions.
The scientists were able to identify 33 proteins that are present in the blood and linked to an increased risk of developing several heart diseases, including heart failure and atrial fibrillation. What they found was that many of these proteins were also the targets of modern drugs used to treat cancers.
The discovery paves the way for developing cancer drugs that are able to battle tumors without impacting the common proteins, and also protein-inhibiting treatments for those who have a higher risk of heart disease.
“While there have been advances in treating cancer, one of the consequences has been a risk of heart damage from these drugs,” said Sir Nilesh Samani, professor and medical director at the British Heart Foundation. “This research points the way towards developing safer and more refined drugs so that, one day, worries about developing heart problems after cancer treatment might be a thing of the past.”
The study was published in the journal Science Advances.
Source: University College London
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