Researchers aim to improve heart health for breast cancer survivors

UBC Human Kinetics assistant professor Neil Eves and Master of Science student Graeme Koelwyn are conducting research that examines the heart and blood vessel function in breast cancer survivors who have received anthracycline chemotherapy.

“In breast cancer, specifically, an increasing number of people are surviving because treatments are getting better and doctors are catching it earlier,” says Koelwyn. “But due to the nature of these treatments there may also be a growing number of people who experience post-treatment complications.”

Anthracyclines are some of the most effective anti-cancer treatments developed, but they potentially produce secondary effects in some patients.

“It is well known that anthracycline chemotherapy may affect the heart during or after treatment, but we have a minimal understanding of how it affects the blood vessels or the relationship the blood vessels have to the heart,” says Eves, an exercise physiologist. “If we can better understand this, we can potentially help breast cancer survivors live longer, healthier lives.”

Working with Dr. Susan Ellard of the B.C. Cancer Agency, Eves and Koelwyn will be collecting data over the next few months by conducting measurements of blood vessel and heart function at rest and during exercise in individuals who previously received anthracycline chemotherapy after being diagnosed for breast cancer.

The research team will examine the behaviour of blood vessels and how they may affect heart function in these breast cancer survivors, and compare the findings to people of the same age who have not been affected by cancer.

Their hope is to identify whether any earlier changes in blood vessel function that may be related to receiving anthracyline treatment can be detected before more potentially major changes in heart function occur. If there is a connection, the research may help predict cardiovascular risks in breast cancer survivors before any problems or complications occur.


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