Belfast scientists discover could mean rise in cancer survivor

Queen's University, Belfast

Read more: Irish researchers discover breakthrough in lung cancer treatment

Scientists at Belfast's Queen’s University Belfast have made a discovery that could help reduce heart failure in cancer patients, potentially increasing their survival rates.

The Irish scientists at Queen’s Centre for Vision and Vascular Science have uncovered the role of a crucial enzyme which, when a patient receives chemotherapy, can cause life-threatening complications like damage to the heart.

Because of the side effects, doctors have until now restricted the amount of chemotherapy doses that a patient can receive, considerably reducing its effectiveness in destroying cancerous tumors.

But since identifying the role of the enzyme — NADPH oxidase — it will now be possible for work to go ahead into making chemotherapy treatments more effective, reducing the toxic side effects of cancer treatment on the heart.

Doctor David Grieve, joint leader of the research at Queen’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, told the press this week that the breakthrough held potential for the creation of new drugs to block the action of the enzyme, significantly reducing heart damage in cancer patients.

"Ultimately, this could allow for the safer use of higher doses of chemotherapy drugs and make the treatment more effective against tumors. Despite improved treatments, cancer is currently responsible for 25% of all mortality in the western world. By reducing the risk of heart failure associated with chemotherapy, patient survival rates could be significantly increased," Doctor Grieve said.

Irish scientists are now focusing their efforts to define the precise role of NADPH oxidase in the development of heart failure associated with cancer therapies.

Read more: Irish researchers discover breakthrough in lung cancer treatment