Equivalence Ratio for Daunorubicin to Doxorubicin in Relation to Late Heart Failure in Survivors of Childhood Cancer

J Clin Oncol. 2015 Nov 10;33(32):3774-80. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.61.5187. Epub 2015 Aug 24.


Purpose: Cumulative anthracycline dose is one of the strongest predictors of heart failure (HF) after cancer treatment. However, the differential risk for cardiotoxicity between daunorubicin and doxorubicin has not been rigorously evaluated among survivors of childhood cancer. These risks, which are based on hematologic toxicity, are currently assumed to be approximately equivalent.

Patients and methods: Data from 15,815 survivors of childhood cancer who survived at least 5 years were used. Survivors were from the Emma Children's Hospital/Academic Medical Center (n = 1,349), the National Wilms Tumor Study (n = 364), the St Jude Lifetime Cohort Study (n = 1,695), and the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (n = 12,407). The hazard ratio (HR) for clinical HF through age 40 years for doses of daunorubicin and doxorubicin (per 100-mg/m(2) increments) was estimated by using Cox regression adjusted for sex, age at diagnosis, treatment with other anthracycline agents and chest radiation, and cohort membership.

Results: In total, 5,144 (32.5%) patients received doxorubicin as part of their cancer treatment, whereas 2,243 (14.7%) received daunorubicin. On the basis of 271 occurrences of HF during a median follow-up time after cohort entry of 17.3 years (range, 0.0 to 35.0 years), the cumulative incidence of HF at age 40 years was 3.2% (95% CI, 2.8% to 3.7%). The average ratio of HRs for daunorubicin to doxorubicin was 0.45 (95% CI, 0.23 to 0.73). A similar ratio was obtained by using a linear dose-response model, which yielded an HR of 0.49 (95% CI, 0.28 to 0.70).

Conclusion: Compared with doxorubicin, daunorubicin was less cardiotoxic among survivors of childhood cancer than most current guidelines suggest. This may have implications for follow-up guidelines. The feasibility of substitution of doxorubicin with daunorubicin in childhood cancer treatment protocols to reduce cardiotoxicity should be additionally investigated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthracyclines / administration & dosage
  • Anthracyclines / adverse effects*
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / administration & dosage
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / adverse effects*
  • Cardiotoxins / administration & dosage
  • Cardiotoxins / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Daunorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Daunorubicin / adverse effects*
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Doxorubicin / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Therapeutic Equivalency
  • Young Adult


  • Anthracyclines
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Cardiotoxins
  • Doxorubicin
  • Daunorubicin