Background: Late cardiotoxic effects of doxorubicin are increasingly a problem for patients who survive childhood cancer. Cardiotoxicity is often progressive, and some patients have disabling symptoms. Our objective was to identify risk factors for late cardiotoxicity.
Methods: We examined echocardiograms from 120 children and adults who had received cumulative doses of 244 to 550 mg of doxorubicin per square meter of body-surface area for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia or osteogenic sarcoma in childhood, a mean of 8.1 years earlier. Measurements of blood pressure and left ventricular function, contractility (measured as the stress-velocity index), end-diastolic posterior-wall thickness, end-diastolic dimension, mass, and afterload (measured as end-systolic wall stress) were compared with sex-specific values from a cohort of 296 normal subjects.
Results: All echocardiographic measurements were abnormal at follow-up a minimum of two years after the end of therapy, with more frequent and severe abnormalities in female patients. In a multivariate analysis, female sex and a higher cumulative dose of doxorubicin were associated with depressed contractility (P < or = 0.001), and there was an interaction between these two variables. Independent and significant associations were found between a higher rate of administration of doxorubicin and increased afterload (P < or = 0.001), left ventricular dilatation, and depressed left ventricular function; between a higher cumulative dose and depressed left ventricular function (P < or = 0.001); between a younger age at diagnosis and reduced left-ventricular-wall thickness and mass and increased afterload; and between a longer time since the completion of doxorubicin therapy and reduced left-ventricular-wall thickness and increased afterload (P < or = 0.001).
Conclusions: Female sex and a higher rate of administration of doxorubicin were independent risk factors for cardiac abnormalities after treatment with doxorubicin for childhood cancer; the prevalence and severity of abnormalities increased with longer follow-up.