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According to an article recently published in the Annals of Oncology, the agent dexrazoxane (Cardioxane®) protects the heart from damage of continued treatment with chemotherapy agents known as anthracyclines in women with breast cancer.

A class of chemotherapy agents commonly used in the treatment of breast cancer is anthracyclines. Although effective when used for treating cancer, anthracyclines are associated with serious side effects to the heart. The higher the overall (cumulative) doses of anthracyclines used for treatment of a patient, the higher the risk of cardiac side effects.

Dexrazoxane is an agent that protects patients treated with anthracyclines against cardiac side effects. It has demonstrated a reduction in the risk of developing cardiac side effects among patients who are undergoing treatment with anthracyclines for the first time.

However, some patients benefit from additional treatment with anthracyclines. This has prompted researchers from Europe and South Africa to conduct a clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of dexrazoxane among patients who had previously received anthracyclines and were to receive subsequent treatment with anthracyclines.

This trial included 164 patients with advanced breast cancer. The patients had received prior treatment with anthracyclines, placing them at a higher risk of developing cardiac side effects when treated with further courses of anthracyclines. The patients were divided into two groups: those who were treated with dexrazoxane plus subsequent therapy including an anthracycline and those who received subsequent anthracycline-therapy alone.

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Patients treated with dexrazoxane had significantly reduced cardiac side effects.

  • Side effects to the heart occurred in 13% of patients treated with dexazoxane during subsequent anthracycline therapy compared with nearly 40% of patients not treated with dexrazoxane during subsequent anthracycline therapy.
  • Congestive heart failure (enlargement of the heart) occurred in only 1% of patients treated with dexrazoxane/anthracycline compared with 11% of patients treated with anthracycline therapy only.
  • Anticancer responses were the same between the two groups of patients, indicating that dexrazoxane does not interfere with the anticancer activity of anthracyclines.

The researchers concluded that the use of dexrazoxane with additional anthracycline-based therapy among women with breast cancer who have received prior treatment with anthracyclines provides protection to the heart. Patients who are to be treated with anthracycline-based therapy may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of including dexrazoxane in their treatment regimen.

Reference: Marty M, Espie M, Llombart A, et al. Multicenter Randomized Phase III Study of the Cardioprotective Effect of Dexrazoxane (Cardioxane®) in Advanced/Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients Treated with Anthracycline-Based Chemotherapy. Annals of Oncology. 2006; 17: 614-622.

Related News:Anthracyclines Linked with Damage to Blood Vessels (2/24/06)

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