Common Breast Cancer Drug Linked to Heart Problems in Older Women


Credit: © Rozenn Leard |

Common Breast Cancer Drug Linked to Heart Problems in Older Women

A drug commonly usedِ toِ treat breast cancer mayِ causeِ heart problems inِ elderly patients, a newِ study says.
The results show thatِ 27 percent ofِ women overِ age 70 takingِ trastuzumab — commonly knownِ byِ its brand name, Herceptin — developed heart problems asِ a result ofِ taking theِ drug.
The findings highlight theِ needِ to study cancer drugs inِ older patients; mostِ clinical trials forِ breast cancer drugs involve younger women whoِ haveِ fewerِ health problems alongِ with theirِ cancer, theِ researchers said.

The study is published today (Aug. 9) in the journal Annals of Oncology.

Heart problems

The researchers looked atِ medical records ofِ 45 breast cancer patients, betweenِ the ages ofِ 70 andِ 92, whoِ hadِ beenِ treated withِ Herceptin, andِ found thatِ 12 developed heart problems caused byِ the drug.
Women withِ prior heart problems orِ diabetes hadِ a greater risk.
One-third ofِ the women withِ eitherِ of thoseِ conditions inِ the study developed heart problems.

Weighing risks and benefits

While researchers doِ not knowِ exactlyِ how theِ drug causesِ heart trouble, itِ isِ clear thatِ the chemotherapy drugs oftenِ givenِ alongِ with Herceptin compound theِ problems, Cyr said.
Still, forِ most women, theِ benefits ofِ taking Herceptin areِ likely toِ outweigh theِ risks, Cyr said, thoughِ patients shouldِ beِ sure toِ takeِ echocardiogram tests toِ determine theirِ baseline cardiac function beforeِ starting theِ drug, andِ watch closely forِ symptoms suchِ asِ shortness ofِ breath andِ swollen limbs whileِ onِ it.
The problem isِ that HER2 positive tumors areِ really aggressive, andِ trastuzumab hasِ revolutionized treatments forِ these women, sheِ said.