Cardiac complications in childhood cancer survivors treated with anthracyclines

Vivian I. Franco, Steven E. Lipshultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Cardiovascular complications are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among survivors of childhood cancer, after cancer relapse and secondary malignancies. Although advances in cancer treatment have improved the 5-year survival rates, the same treatments, such as anthracyclines, that cure cancer also increase the risk for adverse cardiovascular effects. Anthracycline-related cardiotoxicity in survivors of childhood cancer is progressive and can take years to develop, initially presenting as sub-clinical cardiac abnormalities that, if left undetected or untreated, can lead to heart failure, myocardial infarction, or other clinical cardiac dysfunction. A higher cumulative dose of anthracycline is associated with cardiotoxicity in children; however, sub-clinical cardiac abnormalities are evident at lower doses with longer follow-up, suggesting that there is no safe dose of anthracycline. Other risk factors include female sex, younger age at diagnosis, black race, trisomy 21, longer time since treatment, and the presence of pre-existing cardiovascular disease and co-morbidities. Cardioprotective strategies during treatment are limited in children. Enalapril provides only temporary cardioprotection, whereas continuous anthracycline infusion extends none. On the other hand, dexrazoxane successfully prevents or reduces anthracycline-related cardiotoxicity in children with cancer, without increased risks for recurrence of primary or second malignancies or reductions in anti-tumour efficacy. With more childhood cancer survivors now reaching adulthood, it is vital to understand the adverse effects of cancer treatment on the cardiovascular system and their long-term consequences to identify and establish optimal prevention and management strategies that balance oncologic efficacy with long-term safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-116
Number of pages10
JournalCardiology in the young
Issue numberS2
StatePublished - Sep 17 2015


  • Anthracyclines
  • cardiotoxicity
  • childhood cancer survivors
  • dexrazoxane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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