Researchers find gene responsible for heart damage caused by chemotherapy

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 57 , No. 9 , November 2015 , Pages 397 News

Researchers at the Child and Family Research Institute (CFRI) BC Children’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia found a genetic variation that brings a 5-times higher risk of heart damage for cancer patients treated with a type of chemotherapy drug called anthracyclines.

Anthracyclines are a treatment for leukemia, bone tumors, and other cancers in both children and adults. In many patients the drugs cause permanent heart damage that can lead to heart failure, which can be immediate or develop years after treatment, and may require a heart transplant. Anthracyclines are prescribed to over 900 000 patients each year worldwide.

The researchers’ previous work identified two genes linked to anthracycline-related heart problems. The new discovery of a variation in the RARG gene allows for more precise genetic testing to identify patients at risk of these side effects.

There were 456 children in the study between February 2005 and April 2011. All of the children had normal heart function before receiving anthracyclines for their cancers. The researchers analyzed the children’s genomes, including genes involved in drug biotransformation. This allowed them to identity the RARG gene and its effects on the development of anthracycline-induced heart damage.

The article, “A coding variant in RARG confers susceptibility to anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity in childhood cancer” appeared in the September Nature Genetics and is available online at (paywall).

. Researchers find gene responsible for heart damage caused by chemotherapy. BCMJ, Vol. 57, No. 9, November, 2015, Page(s) 397 - News.

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