Heart Failure in Breast Cancer Survivors: Focus on Early Detection and Novel Biomarkers

Curr Heart Fail Rep. 2021 Dec;18(6):362-377. doi: 10.1007/s11897-021-00535-w. Epub 2021 Nov 3.


Purpose of review: Breast cancer survival rate has greatly improved in the last two decades due to the emergence of next-generation anti-cancer agents. However, cardiotoxicity remains a significant adverse effect arising from traditional and emerging chemotherapies as well as targeted therapies for breast cancer patients. In this review, we will discuss cardiotoxicities of both traditional and emerging therapies for breast cancer. We will discuss current practices to detect cardiotoxicity of these therapies with the focus on new and emerging biomarkers. We will then focus on 'omics approaches, especially the use of epigenetics to discover novel biomarkers and therapeutics to mitigate cardiotoxicity.

Recent findings: Significant cardiotoxicities of conventional chemotherapies remain and new and unpredictable new forms of cardiac and/or vascular toxicity emerge with the surge in novel and targeted therapies. Yet, there is no clear guidance on detection of cardiotoxicity, except for significant left ventricular systolic dysfunction, and even then, there is no uniform definition of what constitutes cardiotoxicity. The gold standard for detection of cardiotoxicity involves a serial echocardiography in conjunction with blood-based biomarkers to detect early subclinical cardiac dysfunction. However, the ability of these tests to detect early disease remains limited and not all forms of toxicity are detectable with these modalities. There is an unprecedented need to discover novel biomarkers that are sensitive and specific for early detection of subclinical cardiotoxicity. In that space, novel echocardiographic techniques, such as strain, are becoming more common-place and new biomarkers, discovered by epigenetic approaches, seem to become promising alternatives or adjuncts to conventional non-specific cardiac biomarkers.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Breast cancer; Cardiotoxicity; Chemotherapy; Epigenetics; Heart failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Breast Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Cancer Survivors*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Heart Failure* / diagnosis
  • Humans


  • Biomarkers