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Trastuzumab raises risk of heart problems in the elderly with history of heart disease or diabetes
Date:8/9/2011

221.10.254.64

The first study to investigate the effect of the breast cancer drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) on heart and vascular function in elderly patients has found that it increases the risk of heart problems, particularly in women with a history of heart disease, diabetes or both.

Authors of the study, published in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology today [1], looked at records for 45 women aged between 70 and 92 who had been treated with trastuzumab since 2005 and found that 26.7% (12) of the patients developed heart problems caused by the drug a slightly higher rate than seen in earlier, clinical trials in younger, healthier women. Thirty-three percent of the women with a history of heart disease developed either asymptomatic and symptomatic heart problems as a result of taking trastuzumab, compared to only 9.1% of women without such a history, and 33.3% of women with diabetes developed problems compared to only 6.1% without the condition. When trastuzumab treatment was stopped, all but one of the women recovered fully and five of them were able to re-start the treatment.

Trastuzumab is the current standard of care for women diagnosed with the type of breast cancer that expresses the protein HER2 on the surface of the cancer cells (HER2 positive breast cancer). Although breast cancer is most common in elderly women, clinical trials of trastuzumab have been carried out in younger women, "ideal patients", who have few if any other health-related issues.

Dr Csar Serrano, who carried out the research while working as a clinical fellow at the Department of Medical Oncology Breast Cancer Centre at the Vall d'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, said: "This is the first study specifically to assess trastuzumab-related cardiac toxicity and the cardiovascular factors that are associated with an increased risk in a selected population of elderly breast cancer patients.

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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@mac.com
European Society for Medical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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