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From cardiotoxicity to cardioprotection

University of Newcastle, Hunter Medical Research Institute & Hunter New England Local Health District

  • Cardiovascular Early-Mid Career Researcher Grant
Organ System:
  • Cardiovascular
Date Funded:
  • 22 May, 2020
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Associate Professor Aaron Sverdlov

Project summary

Can we treat cancer without breaking the heart? From cardiotoxicity to cardioprotection – reversing the impact of cancer therapies on cardiovascular health for cancer patients.

What is the issue for NSW?

Advances in anti-cancer treatment have led to improved survival of patients with cancer but have also increased morbidity and mortality due to treatment side effects. Cardiovascular diseases are one of the most frequent of these side effects, leading to premature morbidity and death among cancer survivors, affecting up to a third of people living with and beyond cancer.

The number of cancer patients and especially survivors is growing exponentially and thus there is a growing need for ‘cardio-oncology’ specialists to manage the rapidly growing number of patients with cancer and co-morbid cardiovascular disease.

One of the key issues in management of these patients is the lack of proven cardioprotective strategies. While cardiotoxicity of chemotherapy has been known since 1960s, to date, there are no cardioprotective agents in routine clinical use.

What does the research aim to do and how?

Associate Professor Aaron Sverdlov in partnership with A/Professor Doan Ngo have established and co-lead a unique “Cancer and the Heart” Cardio-Oncology Program. Their mission is to improve acute and long-term cardiovascular outcomes in patients with cancer via an integrative multidisciplinary collaboration between cardiology, oncology, haematology, radiation oncology, pharmacy and pharmacology, leading to better understanding, detection, monitoring and treatment of cardiovascular complications arising from cancer therapies.

The purpose of this specific project is to initiate and lead a discovery research as part of our overall Cardio-oncology Program that is focused on repurposing drugs that could provide dual cardio-protective as well as anti-cancer roles. The team will screen a number of medications, some already available on the market and some in final stages of development, for their ability to protect cardiovascular system from damage caused by chemotherapy.

The overall goal is to enable and lead a NSW-initiated direct translation of world-class Australian biomedical research, into lifesaving medicines for a rapidly rising number of patients with concomitant cancer and cardiovascular diseases worldwide.