This pilot study has received generous funding from The Jack Brockhoff Foundation.
Chemotherapy regimens containing anthracyclines are among the most commonly used to treat breast cancer. While very effective, this class of drugs is associated with short-term cardiac damage and an increased risk of symptomatic heart failure. Recent data indicates that patients with early-stage breast cancer are more likely to die from heart disease than cancer. Furthermore, breast cancer patients have impaired measures of cardiopulmonary function which are further reduced following cancer treatments. It is unknown whether cardiac function may explain these reductions in fitness. There are currently no cardiac tests that can accurately identify early cardiac damage and those patients at greatest risk of developing heart failure.
Exercise magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) is a technique that Associate Professor Andre La Gerche, Head of Sports Cardiology, has developed with proven ‘gold-standard’ accuracy in quantifying cardiac function during exercise. This technique is ideally suited to identifying early anthracycline cardiac toxicity. In this study, Associate Professor La Gerche will test 30 breast cancer patients undergoing standard anthracycline-based adjuvant chemotherapy. Exercise CMR and exercise cardiopulmonary testing will be performed prior to, and one month following, chemotherapy and will be compared with biochemical measures of cardiac damage and standard resting measures of cardiac function. The cohort will also be randomised to an exercise training intervention versus standard care to determine whether regular exercise during chemotherapy reduces the decline in fitness and cardiac function. This will provide compelling data for a larger trial targeting at-risk patients with cardioprotective medications.