Structural and functional effects of adriamycin on cardiac cells in vitro

Theodore J. Lampidis, I. Craig Henderson, Mervyn Israel, George P. Canellos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The effects of Adriamycin (ADR) on the heart, seen clinically as transient electrocardiographic changes and cardiomyopathy, have been simulated in an in vitro cardiac cell system. Structural and functional alterations in cultured heart cells can be dissociated based upon ADR dose and length of exposure. At high ADR doses (100 to 200 μg/ml), cessation of beating was rapid, and structural changes consistent with the in vivo cardiomyopathic picture (vacuolization and nucleolar fragmentation) were observed. At low ADR doses (0.1 to 0.5 μg/ml), arrhythmias were produced in the absence of ultrastructural changes (within 48 hr); the incidence and severity of the arrhythmias were demonstrated to be dose dependent. Continued treatment of cultures at low dose levels for sustained periods of time (up to 17 days) resulted in a striking loss of muscle fiber without concomitant vacuolization and nucleolar fragmentation. An intermediate ADR dose of 10 μg/ml of 1 hr exposure caused vacuolization and cessation of beating, with lysis of cells within 72 hr. The parallel between the effects of ADR on in vitro cardiac cell structure and function with those seen in vivo suggests that this simple system may have value in studies directed towards the mechanism of ADR-induced cardiac toxicity and in the screening of anthracycline analogs for their potential effects on the heart.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3901-3909
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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