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Myocardial disease
How to monitor cardiac toxicity of chemotherapy: time is muscle!
  1. D Kerkhove1,
  2. C Fontaine2,
  3. S Droogmans1,
  4. J De Greve2,
  5. K Tanaka3,
  6. Nico Van De Veire1,4,
  7. Guy Van Camp1
  1. 1Centrum voor Hart, en Vaatziekten, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel Laarbeeklaan, Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2Borstkliniek, Oncologisch centrum, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel, VUB, Jette, Brussels, Belgium
  3. 3Department of Radiology, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel—VUB, Jette, Brussels, Belgium
  4. 4Algemeen ziekenhuis Maria Middelares, Ghent, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Dr D Kerkhove, Centrum voor Hart- en Vaatziekten, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel Laarbeeklaan 101, Jette 1090, Belgium; Dirk.kerkhove{at}

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Cancer and cardiovascular (CV) disease are the leading causes of death in the western world. The increasing age of the western population and the improved global cancer survival, due to ongoing advances in anticancer treatments, point to further increases in the CV burden in cancer survivors as a consequence of exposure to cardiotoxic drugs. Since it is not desirable to improve cancer survival at the price of increased CV mortality and morbidity, more and more cardio-oncological papers are seeking methods to enhance the early diagnosis of cardiotoxicity.

Before being able to determine which tests are best at identifying cardiotoxicity in a quick, accurate and prognostically relevant way, we have to understand how cardiotoxicity has been defined.

Lack of consensus in defining cardiotoxicity

Histological proof of cardiotoxicity remains the diagnostic gold standard, but its correlation with functional cardiac status is unclear, and additional practical limitations make it unsuitable for detecting cardiotoxicity.

Historically, left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) was chosen as the parameter for monitoring/identifying cardiotoxicity in clinical practice with proven impact on prognosis. LVEF expresses global LV systolic function, it correlates well with functional status for the majority of the population, and several well studied methods can measure LVEF with acceptable to high accuracy. However, its limitations have been well established over the last 10 years, ranging from methodological through mathematical to statistical ones.

Cardiotoxicity was first defined by Schwartz et al1 in an anthracycline treated population, using multiple gated acquisition (MUGA) scanning to determine LVEF during and after anthracycline treatment. The diagnosis of cardiotoxicity was fulfilled in the case of an absolute 10% drop in LVEF or a decrease to below 50% in patients with baseline LVEF >50%, or an absolute 10% drop in LVEF or a drop below 30% in patients with baseline LVEF <50%. Several years later, the Cardiac Review and Evaluation Committee (CREC) …

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the following below: (1) substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; (2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and (3) final approval of the version to be published.

  • Competing interests In compliance with EBAC/EACCME guidelines, all authors participating in Education in Heart have disclosed potential conflicts of interest that might cause a bias in the article. The authors have no competing interests.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.