In a new study, researchers have unveiled clues into why some cancer patients develop a serious heart condition after chemotherapy.
They found that the heart condition may be linked to a faulty gene called titin.
The research was conducted by a team of international scientists led by Imperial College London and elsewhere.
More patients than ever are surviving cancer, thanks to advances in treatment over the past decade or so.
However, scientists now have a key problem where some patients who have survived cancer are developing serious heart conditions, sometimes within the first year after finishing treatment.
The team analyzed the genes of more than 200 cancer patients—most of who had breast cancer—who had been diagnosed with a type of heart condition called cancer-therapy induced cardiomyopathy, or CCM.
They found patients who developed the heart condition were more likely to carry genetic faults linked to cardiomyopathy.
In particular, patients were more likely to carry a faulty version of a gene called titin.
The faulty titin gene was found in 7.5% of CCM patients, compared to only 0.7% of healthy individuals.
According to the team, a faulty titin gene is carried by more than half a million people in the UK.
The gene is crucial for maintaining the elasticity of heart muscle, and faulty versions are linked to a type of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy.
The scientists behind the study say the new insights may help understand why some patients develop CCM, and even identify patients at risk of the condition.
The team also found CCM affects up to one in ten cancer patients—with more women affected than men, and often strikes between six months and nine years after cancer treatment.
The condition is caused by the chemotherapy drugs damaging heart muscle, leaving it unable to pump properly.
Although many patients recover, it can lead to heart failure in around ten percent of patients.
The team believes the findings can lead to doctors being able to assess the individual risk of heart damage for each patient scheduled to receive potentially cardiotoxic chemotherapy.
By analyzing their genetic risk doctors could ensure that a patient’s heart health is monitored by doctors during and after chemotherapy.
The study is published in the journal Circulation.
Copyright © 2019 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.