Closer look at popular Breast Cancer drug

December 19, 2011 1:49:57 PM PST
Nearly 300,000 women will remember 2011 as the year they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The good news is, more of those women are surviving than ever before. And with that in mind,

Researchers are now beginning to take a closer look at one of the most popular and powerful drugs used to treat breast cancer.

Named partially for its ruby red color, the drug doxorubicin has become a mainstay in the treatment of breast cancer for decades.

Linda Nazareth has been treated with it and so was her grandmother nearly 50 years ago. Even then there were questions about the impact it may have on a woman's heart.

"My dad told me that she would start getting sick as soon as they started the medicine and it did damage her heart," said Linda Nazareth.

So researchers at Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital are using high-definition technology to try and answer those decades-old questions.

Normally when breast cancer patients are treated with this drug, doctors keep tabs on their hearts by using echocardiograms.

But those may have their drawbacks.

"By the time changes manifest on the echocardiogram, Indicating decreased heart function, it's already too late. The Damage is done," said Dr. Charles Shapiro.

Dr. Shapiro and his team are taking a different approach. During Chemotherapy sessions, they're not only collecting blood from patients, but are also putting them through state-of-the-art cardiac MRI's using crystal clear images to search for even the smallest signs of damage.

Doctors insist doxorubicin is generally safe, and only a small percentage of women may be at risk for heart damage.

But knowing exactly who they are and when damage may occur could help them treat even more women.

At Ohio State University Medical Center, researchers say they will use the blood samples to look for an increase in a certain type of cell that is made in greater numbers whenever the heart is injured.

The outcome of their study could help doctors formulate treatment plans that take into consideration not only a woman's cancer, but the years of survival she may enjoy once its cured.

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