Anthracycline drugs like daunorubicin and doxorubicin are used to treat many types of solid tumours and blood cancers such as leukaemia in adults and children. Anthracycline therapy can be very successful at controlling cancer, but heart damage caused by anthracycline treatment “is a considerable and serious problem,” said Dr. Elvira van Dalen of the Emma Children’s Hospital in the Netherlands.

She and her colleagues found that the rates of heart failure among adult patients receiving anthracycline therapy were significantly lower when the patients had an infusion of the drug that lasted six or more hours, compared to shorter infusion times.

In five studies involving 557 patients, the longer treatment cut the risk of heart failure by nearly 75 percent compared to the risk in patients who received the short treatment. Van Dalen said the prolonged dose of six hours or more “might be justified” if a patient is at high risk of heart damage or needs a high cumulative dose of the chemotherapy. In some of the studies, the prolonged dose also reduced the risk of less severe problems such as weakened heart function. Patients had the same chance of survival and tumour shrinkage whether they received the long or short therapies, the Cochrane researchers found.

“It should be emphasized that the majority of the patients included in these studies were adults with advanced solid tumours,” van Dalen and colleagues said, noting that there are few good studies about the length of anthracycline treatment in children. Among the children in the study, there was no difference in heart damage between the long and short treatments “and no information on survival and tumour shrinkage was available,” van Dalen said.; Source: Center for the Advancement of Health