Not only is cancer a devastating diagnosis, but it’s one of those diseases where the cure may sometimes seem to be much worse than pre-diagnosis symptoms. To make a difficult situation worse, some of the anti-cancer drugs have powerful – and adverse – side effects. Imagine fighting for your life only to find out that the very drugs designed to cure your cancer are at the same time causing devastating, permanent damage to your heart. It’s a difficult situation for patients and family alike.
Doxorubicin, an anthracyclines antibiotic drug, has been used since the early 1960s to treat various cancers such as lung, ovarian, bladder, breast, bladder, stomach, and thyroid cancer. It’s also used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL, acute myeloblastic leukemia or AML, Hodgkin’s disease, lymphoma, and sarcomas, including AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma. (What is Doxorubicin 1.) Doxorubicin is also known to cause permanent heart damage, congestive heart failure, and heart arrhythmias. (Side Effects 1.)
Despite the adverse side effects to the heart, Doxorubicin remains a popular chemotherapy drug because of its effectiveness. Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment to prevent the heart damaged caused by Doxorubicin or to treat the damage after it occurs. Researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University believe that they may have identified a way to prevent the heart damage caused by Doxorubicin.
In animal trials, mice were administered doses of Doxorubicin. Their diet was then supplemented with inorganic nitrates in an amount 400 times greater than the current recommended daily allowance. Nitrates are found in leafy green vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, beets or beet juice, and other leafy “greens.” Researchers found that mice receiving the nitrates were protected against free radical damage to the heart and suffered less heart damage as a result of Doxorubicin usage.
Despite the fact that the study was not a human based trial, the results open interesting possibilities for possible prevention and treatment options in the future for Doxorubicin-based heart damage.