Cancer Causes Structural and Mechanical Changes in the Heart | New
Research conducted at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) at the University of Calgary has shown that certain cancers cause structural and mechanical changes in the heart.
Dr James White, MD, Clinician Scientist and Director of Stephenson Cardiac Imaging Center at the Foothills Medical Center for Alberta Health Services, led the largest and most comprehensive study to date on the impact of cancer on the heart. Using advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, White and his team studied 381 people with newly diagnosed breast cancer or lymphoma and compared them to 102 healthy volunteers.
Study participants underwent comprehensive MRI scans which were used to create 3D models of their beating hearts and inflammation marker maps, allowing researchers to assess the appearance and function of their hearts. The results, recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, were surprising.
“What we saw is that when you have cancer, your heart is smaller, beats faster, and contracts differently,” says White, explaining that the changes were greatest in left ventricular volume, the chamber of the heart that supplies blood oxygen to the rest of the body and how hard the heart worked to pump.
We now know that when we are about to start treatments for people with cancer, we cannot assume that their cardiovascular system is in a normal state of health.
Cancer treatment has long been known to impact the heart. Cancer survivors are not only more at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, but their hearts can also be damaged by cancer drugs, a condition called cardiotoxicity, which can lead to failure. cardiac.
Cardio-oncology is a relatively new field of medicine developed to treat cancer patients with heart damage caused by chemotherapy, but so far few studies have been conducted on the impact of cancer itself on the heart.
Study provides new insight
Dr. Winson Cheung, MD, oncologist and researcher at the MSC, says that while the study was not intended to immediately change his clinical practice, it provides new insight into the impact of cancer on the heart.
“Because the majority of work on the link between cancer and the heart has so far investigated the impact of chemotherapy and radiation therapy on the heart, it is quite new and informative to show that cancer patients are different and have unique cardiac needs regardless of their treatment, ”says Cheung, co-investigator of the study. “The study gives us pause and suggests that before treatment it is necessary to evaluate the heart.”
Cancer is known to cause a systemic inflammatory condition in the body which contributes to common cancer symptoms like weight loss and general discomfort. White said his findings supported that this process could affect the heart similarly, their findings being consistent with heart inflammation.
The researchers also found that some of the study participants had more serious changes to the heart. White hopes the information will be used to identify people at higher risk of developing cardiotoxicity, heart damage from cancer treatments, so healthcare teams can change treatments to reduce the risk of permanent damage to the heart.
If we can identify those at risk, maybe there is a way to mitigate the risk of a worse outcome.
White’s research team will continue to study these patients for a decade to see the long-term effects of cancer treatment on the heart. He hopes that the changes seen in the hearts of cancer patients will subside after the cancer is successfully removed from the body. This is an important consideration because almost half of all Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
Raja Mita, executive director of Health Innovation for Alberta Innovates, one of the study’s funders, says technology is the future of healthcare.
“We believe digital technologies will be a game-changer in healthcare,” says Mita. “This is a great example of how complex 3D imaging models significantly accelerate clinical science for patients. “