Anticancer agents and cardiotoxicity

Semin Oncol. 2006 Feb;33(1):2-14. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2005.11.001.


Although rare, cardiotoxicity is a significant complication of cancer treatment. The incidence and severity of cardiotoxicity are dependent on the type of drugs used, dose and schedule employed, and age of patients, as well as the presence of coexisting cardiac diseases and previous mediastinal irradiation. Anthracyclines are among one of the most active agents in oncology, but their use is often hampered by their cumulative dose-limiting cardiotoxicity. Combination therapy with new drugs in the last decade, such as taxanes and trastuzumab, in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer has yielded impressive results but also unexpected cardiotoxicity. Existing methods of minimizing cardiotoxicity include the use of protective agents such as dexrazoxane, different preparations of anthracyclines such as liposomal formulations, and alternative scheduling techniques. Assessment of left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) with two-dimensional (2D)-echocardiography or radionuclide ventriculography (RNVG) remains the most pragmatic means of monitoring for cardiotoxicity. The increasing number of long-term survivors of pediatric cancers, as well as the use of trastuzumab, taxanes, and anthracyclines in adjuvant treatment of breast cancer, means that more than ever, cardiotoxicity will remain an important issue for clinicians.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anthracyclines / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Heart / drug effects*
  • Heart Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Heart Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Anthracyclines
  • Antineoplastic Agents