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MRI Detects Kids’ Heart Changes From Chemo

June 10, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Cardiac Imaging, Pediatric Radiology
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MRI can detect early changes in the hearts of children who have undergone chemotherapy for cancer when currently used measures can’t, according to a study published today in the open-access Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance.

Anthracyclines, such as daunorubicin and doxorubicin, are extremely effective chemotherapy drugs against a wide range of cancers, including leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, they can have a nasty side effect: irreversible heart damage. In that case, the earlier therapy can begin, the more effective it can be. So early detection of any heart damage is especially important for children.

Current methods for detecting such damage, including ultrasound (echocardiography), rely on measures of heart function and don’t necessarily reveal early changes that can manifest themselves in later dysfunction.

Researchers at the University of Alberta and its affiliated Stollery Children’s Hospital, both in Edmonton, tried MRI on a group of 30 children and young adults, ages 7 through 19, who were in remission following anthracycline treatment for cancer. Using an advanced technique called T1 mapping, they detected changes in the heart muscle related to fibrosis, even when ultrasound and other functional measures showed no abnormalities.

A news release from BioMed Central, the journal publisher, quoted study authors Edythe Tham, MBBS, and Richard Thompson, PhD, as saying:

In childhood cancer survivors, MRI changes were related to anthracycline dose given to the children. These changes are also mirrored by thinning of the heart wall and a reduction in the exercise capacity.

Dr. Tham, lead author of the study, is a pediatric cardiologist at Stollery. Dr. Thompson, senior author, is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the university.

They added, “By detecting these changes early, we can only hope that future research using these techniques may guide early identification and treatment in attempts to delay the onset of heart damage in children who have survived cancer.”

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Finally, a cancer patient gets to hug her children again. For two weeks, treatment left her too radioactive to be near them. For details, see our Facebook post.

Related CME seminar: Pediatric Radiology

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