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Clinical Articles, Lead Article

Research into toxic effects of cancer drugs gives new hope to patients

Several of the new cancer drugs, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (Trk-I’s), have been shown to have toxic effects on the heart, the causes of which are not known. Researchers at King’s College London, led by Dr Georgina Ellison, have been awarded funding from Heart Research UK to investigate.

The project will study the effects of three Trk-I cancer drugs on cardiac stem cells, grown in the lab, to see how the stem cells are affected at a cellular level, as well as studying changes to cell signals, proteins and gene activity. The King’s researchers suspect that the drugs are either killing or damaging the cardiac stem cells, preventing their normal ability to support heart tissue function.

The research may pave the way for the development of new treatments which prevent toxic effects of Trk-I cancer drugs on the heart, say the researchers – particularly as the findings may identify the specific cell type concerned, the effects of Trk-I drugs on these cells and the mechanisms involved.

The two-year research project will also shed further light on the biology of cardiac stem cells, which may help scientists to find ways of manipulating biochemical pathways to increase the abilities of the cardiac stem cells to repair cells and tissue, which may lead to better treatments for heart failure, they speculate.

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 10.13.34

Dr Georgina Ellison (King's College London)

Dr Ellison (pictured) said: “I am absolutely delighted that Heart Research UK has chosen to support our research. This support will enable us to look closely into the effects of Trk-I cancer drugs and how they can affect cardiac stem cells. It may lead to new treatments to prevent toxic side-effects of the cancer drugs, which is good news for cancer patients.”

Barbara Harpham, National Director of Heart Research UK, said: “This project at King’s College London is exciting because it will not only provide knowledge about the biology of stem cells but could also help to develop new ways of treating heart failure to give patients a better quality of life.”

“Our aim at Heart Research UK is to fund research that benefits patients as soon as possible. This latest grant brings the amount we have funded on research projects in London to £2.6m over the past 10 years, she added”.

Published on: September 26, 2014

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