Chemotherapy – a cocktail of toxic chemicals – is used to kill tumors in cancer patients. Unfortunately it is so toxic it may also kill the patient.
Dr. David Grieve, from Queen's School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences in Belfast, Ireland said, "While chemotherapy drugs are highly effective in treating a wide range of tumors, they can also cause irreversible damage to the heart. This means that doctors are restricted in the doses they can administer to patients. In recent years, scientists have been searching for new drugs to prevent these side-effects.”
Grieve and his team of researchers have discovered an enzyme that, when a person receives chemotherapy, can trigger life-threatening damage to the heart. This could mean that if they are able to block the action of the enzyme, that the heart will be protected during chemotherapy.
"Although we have known about the NADPH oxidase enzyme for many years, until now, we were not aware of its crucial role in causing heart damage associated with chemotherapy. Our research findings hold clear potential for the creation of new drugs to block the action of the enzyme, which could significantly reduce heart damage in cancer patients," Grieve said.
"Ultimately, this could allow for the safer use of higher doses of chemotherapy drugs and make the treatment more effective against tumours. Despite improved treatments, cancer is currently responsible for 25 percent of all mortality in the western world. By reducing the risk of heart failure associated with chemotherapy, patient survival rates could be significantly increased."
The team at Queen’s University, Belfast, are now hoping to conduct further research on the specific role of the enzyme and its relation to heart failure in chemotherapy. The long-term goal is to develop a medication that prevents the enzyme from damaging the heart in response to chemotherapy.
There are alternative treatments for cancer. For more information see:
Source: Cancer Research (Volume 70 (22); pages 9287.