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Genes identified that protect against heart damage from chemotherapy
Date:12/3/2007

A series of genes that protect cells from the powerful, common chemotherapeutic agent doxorubicin has been identified by researchers working to understand how the drug also can destroy the heart.

We found a series of genes that are very important for cell survival in the face of doxorubicin, says Dr. Hernan Flores-Rozas, cancer researcher at the Medical College of Georgia Cancer Center. At the moment you start inactivating these genes, the cells become very sensitive and dont grow any more. So now we know which genes we need to inactivate in the cell to make it very sensitive to the drug.

Doxorubicin is widely used to treat solid tumors from breast cancer to prostate and ovarian cancer. A slightly modified version, daunorubicin, is a powerful fighter of leukemia and lymphoma and often is used in children.

Unfortunately, just as cancer treatment ends, heart problems can begin for some patients who get these drugs. Heart cells, called cardiomyocytes, can commit suicide, or apoptosis, says Dr. Ling Xia, a graduate student at the Department of Cardiology at Chinas Wuhan University who is part of an exchange program with MCG. The result is dilative cardiomyopathy, in which the heart becomes a boggy organ that can no longer pump blood out to the body. Damage can even show up years after treatment, she says noting there is no known way to prevent or treat it, short of a heart transplant.

The long-term goal of their research is prevention and maybe enhanced cancer treatment through development of ways to turn these genes off in cancer cells and on in heart cells, says Dr. Flores-Rozas, corresponding author on the study published in the Dec. 1 issue of Cancer Research. Dr. Xia is first author.

Another possibility is turning down their protection in cancer cells, which should necessitate less drug and result in less heart damage, says Dr. Flores-Rozas, noting that its dose related and cumulative.

They did studies in relatively s
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia  
Source:Eurekalert

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