The cellular basis and prevention of anthracycline-induced late cardiac toxicity following childhood cancer treatment
Anthracyclines are a type of drug used to treat childhood cancer and it is thanks to drugs such as these that 80% of children with cancer now survive. However, many of these survivors go on to develop and even die from heart failure in adulthood.
Today’s cancer patients become tomorrow’s heart patients and it isn’t clear why anthracyclines cause this. We do not currently have enough alternative treatments to simply stop using anthracyclines so we need to find ways to stop anthracyclines causing heart failure. In order to do this, we need to fully understand how anthracyclines affect the billions of cells that form the heart. This is because on every heartbeat, each heart cell contracts then relaxes allowing the whole heart to act as a pump, a rise and fall of calcium inside each cell underlies this.
This study will provide a deep understanding of exactly how anthracyclines change cell calcium and contraction and why those changes occur. We may then be able to prevent those changes and ultimately heart failure by treating patients who are given anthracyclines with existing cardiac drugs. It may also mean that children can be treated with higher doses of anthracyclines to improve their chance of cancer survival.