Older breast cancer patients treated with the drug Herceptin may be more prone to heart failure, according to a new study by the Yale School of Medicine.
In a report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the Yale researchers noted heart failure is a relatively common complication in older women with breast cancer. But their analysis of more than 45,000 Medicare patients with early-stage breast cancer found those taking Herceptin — also known as trastuzumab — were even more likely to suffer the heart condition.
"We observed an even higher risk of heart failure or cardiomyopathy after trastuzumab therapy than those in past clinical trials," said lead researcher Dr. Jersey Chen, a Yale assistant professor of cardiology.
Previous studies involving younger, healthier breast cancer patients have shown Herceptin improves survival, but can increase heart complications, especially when combined with a frequently used therapy called anthracycline chemotherapy.
The Yale study found that Herceptin was associated with a 14 percent higher rate of heart failure or cardiomyopathy in patients over three years, compared to those who did not receive the drug or chemo. What’s more, patients given both Herceptin and anthracycline had a 23.8 percent higher rate.
"Further study is needed to fully understand the benefits and risks of trastuzamab when they are used in the real-world population," said Cary Gross, a co-researcher.