Cardiotoxicity of anticancer drugs: The need for cardio-oncology and cardio-oncological prevention

Adriana Albini, Giuseppina Pennesi, Francesco Donatelli, Rosaria Cammarota, Silvio De Flora, Douglas M. Noonan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to the aging of the populations of developed countries and a common occurrence of risk factors, it is increasingly probable that a patient may have both cancer and cardiovascular disease. In addition, cytotoxic agents and targeted therapies used to treat cancer, including classic chemotherapeutic agents, monoclonal antibodies that target tyrosine kinase receptors, small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors, and even antiangiogenic drugs and chemoprevention agents such as cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors, all affect the cardiovascular system. One of the reasons is that many agents reach targets in the microenvironment and do not affect only the tumor. Combination therapy often amplifies cardiotoxicity, and radiotherapy can also cause heart problems, particularly when combined with chemotherapy. In the past, cardiotoxic risk was less evident, but it is increasingly an issue, particularly with combination therapy and adjuvant therapy. Today's oncologists must be fully aware of cardiovascular risks to avoid or prevent adverse cardiovascular effects, and cardiologists must now be ready to assist oncologists by performing evaluations relevant to the choice of therapy. There is a need for cooperation between these two areas and for the development of a novel discipline, which could be termed cardio-oncology or onco-cardiology. Here, we summarize the potential cardiovascular toxicities for a range of cancer chemotherapeutic and chemopreventive agents and emphasize the importance of evaluating cardiovascular risk when patients enter into trials and the need to develop guidelines that include collateral effects on the cardiovascular system. We also discuss mechanistic pathways and describe several potential protective agents that could be administered to patients with occult or overt risk for cardiovascular complications. The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press.2010This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( 5), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-25
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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