The Heart of the Matter

Study finds role of enzyme contributes to heart failure in cancer patients treated with chemotherapy

(RxWiki News) A new development from Queens University, Belfast, may save cancer patients from heart failure and thus save lives.

The scientists from Queen's Centre for Vision and Vascular Science have discovered the role of an enzyme (NADPH oxidase) that causes extensive damage to the heart when a patient receives chemotherapy. Enzymes are proteins that normally catalyze (increase or decrease the rates of) chemical reactions.

By identifying the enzyme NADPH oxidase, medical professionals can now focus on making chemotherapy treatments more effective and safer by reducing the toxic effects chemotherapy has on the heart. Thus far, physicians have been restricted in the amount of chemotherapy they can administer to patients because of this life-threatening effect on the heart. Meanwhile researchers have looked to develop drugs to prevent these side effects.

Dr David Grieve, jointly leading on the research at Queen's School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences said scientists have known about NADPH oxidase for a number of years but had not been aware of the enzyme's role in causing heart damage associated with chemotherapy until now.

Grieve said the discovery of the enzyme's role holds clear potential for the development of new drugs to block the action of the enzyme.

Cancer claims 25 percent of all mortalities in the Western world, a figure which may be decreased with a drug that prevents heart failure in chemotherapy patients.

Review Date: 
February 10, 2011