Breast cancer awareness campaigns stress the importance of "saving the breasts" - but what about saving the heart?
Breast cancer patients who are positive for the HER2 gene may be at increased risk for heart damage during chemotherapy, according to a new study published in ecancermedicalscience.
Patients with the HER2 gene are often treated with trastuzumab or lapatinib, which interfere with its cancer-causing signals.
However, researchers at the University of Louisville, Kentucky and Kentucky One Health noted that some patients' hearts seemed to be weakening under treatment.
"Breast cancer patients treated with either trastuzumab or lapatanib may have an increase in stress hormones (catecholamines), a decrease in protective growth factor (neuregulin), and an increase in blood pressure," says lead author Dr Carrie Geisberg Lenneman. "This may contribute to why certain patients have a decline in heart function during chemotherapy treatment."
Cardio-oncology is a relatively new field of research, emerging as scientists and doctors understand the connections between cancer treatment and the heart.
"We hope that physicians will consider treating hypertension that may arise in breast cancer patients," Dr Lenneman says, suggesting that existing treatments such as beta-blockers may mitigate the damage.
"Hopefully, this study will lead to larger clinical trials examining the role of beta-blockers as cardioprotective therapy in the HER2-positive treated patients."