Dutch scientists have called for the adoption of regular monitoring of heart functions of those taki...
Dutch scientists have called for the adoption of regular monitoring of heart functions of those taking anti-cancer drugs, after discovering that a drug used to treat a variety of cancers causes a progressive deterioration in heart health.
According to researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, a type of antibiotic called anthracyclines, given to cancer patients in a bid to fight their disease, could bring about serious side effects such as potential heart problems.
"We found a deterioration in heart rate variability (HRV) in 19 of the 22 patients whose HRV we were able to evaluate. HRV is the alteration in the beat-to-beat rate of the heart and reduced HRV is a marker for potential heart problems," said Dr Inge Brouwer, lead researcher on the study.
The research, which the scientists claim is the longest-running study of its kind, monitored 22 cancer patients for a median of 22 years.
It discovered that the 5% rate of overt heart failure among patients taking anthracyclines was directly linked to the drug.
It found that the percentage of the patients taking part in the study who suffered from diastolic dysfunction - where someone's heartbeat does not relax properly - increased from 9% in 1997 to 45% at the end of the study.
Anthracyclines are used to treat a number of different types of cancer including breast cancer, leukaemia and lung cancer.
HRV is a measure of the nervous system's regulation of the heart. It is an independent risk factor for heart attacks or sudden death.
Although some studies have found younger people to be more at risk of heart damage, this study has not found age to be a factor. The researchers are to continue and expand their ongoing study to include childhood cancer survivors treated at the University Medical Centre in Groningen.
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