Helsinki: Doxorubicin treatment, which is commonly used in a variety of cancers, leads to cardiac atrophy and body wasting. Researchers from the Wihuri Research Institute and the University of Helsinki found that in mouse heart, doxorubicin leads to blood vessel rarefaction, which was prevented by treatment with gene therapy using the VEGF-B growth factor.
As advances in cancer treatment have decreased deaths from cancer,
doxorubicin-induced heart problems have become an increasing problem.
"The new findings give hope that in future the heart could be protected
by gene therapy, allowing more thorough cytostatic cancer treatment.
Thus, the cancer itself would be treated more effectively and the
adverse effects could be avoided", explains Markus Räsänen, MD, who made
the discovery during his thesis studies.
“Doxorubicin, a cytostatic agent of the anthracycline class, that was
used in this study has been a target of intensive research in the
scientific world for a long time, and its role has been described in
thousands of research articles. This research article is the first one,
where blood vessel-directed therapy has a clear protective effect
against the doxorubicin toxicity”, says Dr. Riikka Kivelä, who supervised the study.
“Our findings show, that especially the endothelial cells, which form
the inner surface of the vessels in the heart, have an essential role
in the protection against the cardiotoxicity. More preclinical studies
are needed though for the development of VEGF-B gene therapy for cardiac
protection in patients”, elaborates Räsänen.
The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).
This research involved scientists from the Wihuri Research Institute
and the Universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Oulu. Funding was
provided from Wihuri Research Institute, Academy of Finland, Finnish
Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, Finnish Cancer Foundation, and
the European Union People Programme (Marie Curie Actions).