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Implementation of strategies for early detection and prevention of chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity in cancer patients

University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Local Health Network

  • Early-Mid Career Fellowship
Date Funded:
  • 31 May, 2018
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Associate Professor Doan Ngo

Cancer and heart disease are the two most common disease conditions and the leading causes of death. Chemotherapy is more effective than ever at treating cancer, but has a price. There are over 400,000 cancer survivors in Australia and this figure is expected to increase due to a continuous decline in cancer death rates: there is a 70 per cent chance of survival from cancer in Australia. However, up to 25 per cent of these cancer survivors die from chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity (CIC) within 7 years, making it the leading cause of death in cancer survivors.

Cardio-oncology, an under-recognised area in Australia, is the intersection of heart conditions in cancer patients, an emerging field with immense potential to improve quality of life and cardiovascular burden in a growing number of cancer survivors.

The main reason for long-term cardiovascular and healthcare burden is delay in early detection of CIC due to imperfect diagnostic techniques. This is a major limitation, as early detection and treatment of CIC can lead to prevention of heart failure, and recovery of heart function. In addition, lack of an integrated, patient centred approach in Australia results in the fact that most cancer patients are still largely unaware of this adverse drug reaction and tend to neglect care for risk factors that may precipitate cardiotoxicity.

Thus, our program aims to address poor outcomes for the many cancer survivors who go on to develop CIC by discovering simple blood test(s) that could detect early onset of CIC as well as providing better education and facilitating self-care and empowerment for cancer patients/survivors.

Specifically, I will utilise state-of-the-art high through-put techniques that can gather a large amount of data to identify:
1) proteins in blood that change with early onset of CIC
2) genetic markers
3) chemotherapy-induced changes in genetic dispositions (epigenetics).

This data will be combined with latest imaging modalities to develop an individualised risk prediction tool for our patients. As risk assessment and early detection are cornerstones of early treatment and improved outcomes, this could in future lead to change in clinical practice/guidelines and translate in earlier discontinuation/change in chemotherapeutic regimen and initiation of cardioprotective therapy. I will also establish and facilitate a dedicated cardio-oncology nurse-led program of patient education and empowerment. This would achieve both improved interdisciplinary communication related to the diagnosis, monitoring and therapy of cancer treatment related cardiovascular complications and improved patients’ journey and outcomes through improved and dedicated cardiovascular care.