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To Protect the Heart From Breast Cancer Treatment, Study Finds Statins Could Help

Statins, common cholesterol-lowering drugs, may protect women’s hearts from damage caused during chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Two types of anticancer drugs, anthracyclines and trastuzumab, are effective treatments for many women with breast cancer, yet the risk of heart muscle damage has limited their use, particularly in women who are at increased risk of heart problems due to his age or other medical problems, ”said Husam Abdel-Qadir, lead author of the study from the University of Toronto.

“The mechanisms of these drugs are essential to kill breast cancer cells, however, these processes can also damage heart muscle cells, leading to a weakening of the heart,” she said.

Previous small studies have suggested that women taking statins may have less heart muscle damage from these types of chemotherapy. The exact mechanisms of how statins protect against heart cell damage are still unknown. Statins are believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.

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For him current study, researchers used various health administrative databases in Ontario, Canada, to review the incidence of heart failure in women 66 years of age and older who received anthracyclines or trastuzumab for newly diagnosed early-stage breast cancer between 2007 and 2017.

Each woman already taking statins was compared to a partner not taking statins, as well as a variety of medical and social factors. The two groups were compared to understand how many hospitalizations they required or an emergency room visit for heart failure within five years of chemotherapy. None had previously been diagnosed with heart failure.

The researchers found:

  • In the 666 pairs of women (mean age 69) treated with anthracyclines, those taking statins were 55% less likely to be treated in hospital for heart failure (1.2% vs 2.9%).
  • Among the 390 pairs of women (median age 71) treated with trastuzumab, those taking statins were 54% less likely to be treated in the hospital for heart failure (2.7% vs 3.7%), a trend that did not reach statistical significance.

“Our findings support the idea that statins may be a potential intervention to prevent heart failure in patients receiving chemotherapy with anthracyclines and potentially trastuzumab,” Abdel-Qadir said.

This observational study found an association, but cannot conclude that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between taking statins and a lower risk of heart failure.

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“This study does not conclusively prove that statins are protective,” Abdel-Qadir said. “However, this study is based on evidence that suggests they may have benefits. Ideally, women with breast cancer who meet the prescribed guidelines for taking a statin should continue to take it throughout their chemotherapy treatment.

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“Women who do not have an indication for a statin should ask their healthcare team if they can participate in a clinical trial studying the benefits of statins in protecting against heart muscle damage during chemotherapy. If not, they should focus on measures to optimize their cardiovascular health before, during and after chemotherapy. “

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The results of this study in older women may not be generalizable to younger women or to those at low cardiovascular risk who do not meet current indications for a statin. Because the populations are demographically similar, these results from Canada can probably be generalized to women in the United States.


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