Trastuzumab-related cardiotoxicity in the elderly: a role for cardiovascular risk factors

Ann Oncol. 2012 Apr;23(4):897-902. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdr348. Epub 2011 Aug 9.


Background: Elderly breast cancer patients are usually excluded from clinical trials. Nevertheless, with the increasing use of trastuzumab, there is a need to address trastuzumab-related cardiotoxicity in this population.

Patients and methods: Records for patients ≥ 70 years treated with trastuzumab since 2005 were reviewed. New York Heart Association classification was used to document symptomatic cardiotoxicity. Asymptomatic cardiotoxicity was defined as an absolute drop ≥ 10% with a final left ventricular ejection fraction < 50% or an absolute drop > 20%.

Results: Forty-five patients, median age 75.9 years (range 70-92), were identified. Three of 24 (12.5%) early breast cancer patients and 5 of 21 (23.8%) with advanced disease experienced asymptomatic cardiotoxicity. Four of 45 patients (8.9%), all with advanced breast cancer, developed symptomatic congestive heart failure. All but one of them recovered in a median time of 5 weeks (range 3-21). Patients with trastuzumab-related cardiotoxicity presented more often with cardiovascular risk factors, such as history of cardiac disease (33% versus 9.1%, P = 0.017) and diabetes (33.3% versus 6.1%, P = 0.010), compared with those without.

Conclusions: Elderly breast cancer patients with a history of cardiac disease and/or diabetes treated with trastuzumab have an increased incidence of cardiotoxicity. Continuous cardiac monitoring is especially advised in this population.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / complications
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Complications / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Trastuzumab


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Trastuzumab