Blood Vessel-Directed Therapy Protects Against Cancer Drug Cardiotoxicity

Gene therapy stimulates blood vessel growth in the heart to avoid cancer drug side effects.

VEGF-B gene therapy can protect against chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity, a new study in mice found.

The popular chemotherapy drug, doxorubicin, is used to treat a variety of cancer types. Unfortunately, this particular drug comes with adverse events, such as cardiac atrophy and body wasting.

While conducting a study on mice, researchers saw that doxorubicin led to blood vessel rarefaction in the heart, but this issue could be prevented with gene therapy, using VEGF-B growth factor.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

“Doxorubicin, a cytostatic agent of the anthracycline class that was used in this study, has been a target of intensive research in the scientific world for a long time, and its role has been described in thousands of research articles,” said study supervisor Riikka Kivelä. “This research article is the first one, where blood vessel-directed therapy has a clear protective effect against the doxorubicin toxicity.”

Researcher Markus Räsänen, MD, said he hopes their findings will lead to the hearts of cancer patients being protected by gene therapy in the future, and as a result, provide more effective cancer treatment without adverse effects.

“Our findings show, that especially the endothelial cells, which form the inner surface of the vessels in the heart, have an essential role in the protection against the cardiotoxicity,” Räsänen said. “More preclinical studies are needed though for the development of VEGF-B gene therapy for cardiac protection in patients.”