Cardiac toxicity from systemic cancer therapy: a comprehensive review

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2010 Sep-Oct;53(2):94-104. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2010.05.006.


Cardiovascular toxicity is a potential short- or long-term complication of anticancer therapy. Exposure to chemotherapy medications, primarily the anthracycline class, can lead to potentially irreversible clinically significant cardiac dysfunction. The advent of novel biologic agents, including monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors, has revolutionized the treatment of several types of malignancies. Although targeted therapies are considered less toxic and better tolerated by patients compared with classic chemotherapy agents, rare serious complications have been observed; and longer-term follow-up is needed to determine the exact profile of related cardiac adverse effects. Cardiac toxicity associated with cancer therapies can range from asymptomatic subclinical abnormalities, including electrocardiographic changes and temporary left ventricular ejection fraction decline, to life-threatening events such as congestive heart failure or acute coronary syndromes. Assessment of the prevalence, type, and severity of cardiac toxicity caused by various cancer treatments is a critical topic for patient management and specifically for new drug development. Guidelines for monitoring cardiac adverse effects have been formulated; however, appropriate supportive evidence remains limited. Given the rate of new drug development designed to fulfill unmet oncologic needs, efforts are needed to promote strategies for cardiac risk detection and management and to avoid unintended consequences potentially impeding development of, regulatory approval for, and patient access to novel therapies. These advances require ongoing research to assess and manage the cardiovascular safety of patients treated with anticancer agents, as well as a well-organized collaboration between oncologists and cardiologists. The aim of this review is to summarize potential cardiovascular toxicities for a range of cancer chemotherapeutics and to review general mechanisms of cardiovascular toxicity for each agent.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cardiology
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Heart Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Heart Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Patient Care Team
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents