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Maryam Lustberg, MD

Award Name TL1

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Assessing Anthracycline-Induced Cardiovascular Effects

The Center for Clinical and Translational Science at The Ohio State University has awarded Maryam Lustberg, MD, a Mentored Research Training Program (TL1) award. The TL1 award allows recipients to work with a mentor to complete a research program of their choice.

Lustberg is working under the direction of Charles Shapiro, MD. She was inspired by Shapiro to begin research on the effects of anthracycline, a drug used in chemotherapy to treat cancer patients.

Anthracycline is believed to cause subtle changes in the cardiac tissue over time, leading to cardiovascular problems for cancer survivors later in life.

“It is possible that prior exposure to these drugs may become a bigger problem for this population as they get older and develop other cardiovascular risk factors,” Lustberg said.

There is currently no reliable test to see if cancer patients treated with anthracyclines have sustained early injury to their cardiac tissue. Using imaging to identify the tissue changes will help Lustberg fully comprehend the long term effects of this drug.

Lustberg will collaborate with Subha Raman, MD, to look at the tissue changes through Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (CMR) imaging. CMR has the capability to see subtle changes in cardiac tissue.

“Based on studies in other populations, CMR is likely a better test, a more sensitive test to see these subtle changes,” Lustberg said.

In addition to looking at CMR images, Lustberg will study blood markers of research participants. The team will be studying endothelial progenitor cells, which are primitive cells made in the bone marrow that can enter the bloodstream and go to areas of blood vessel injury to help repair damage. The amount of these cells will be measured over time to see if they have a correlation with heart damage.

Adult breast cancer patients and children with malignancies being treated with anthracyclines will be the primary participants in the study, which is being continued through funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Working with children is essential because they are particularly susceptible to long term anthracycline effects.

“Many [children] are long term survivors,” Lustberg said. “One of the problems that we are anticipating is that as they reach adulthood and get older they may be more at risk for cardiac problems because of these drugs.”

Lustberg believes that assessing and monitoring the effects of this drug is important because patients will often read the chemotherapy consent forms and ask about the risks of cardiac problems.

As the number of cancer patients grows, and along with it the survivorship of cancer patients, it becomes evident that there is a need to identify problems that may arise because of cancer treatment and hinder them from occurring.

“The big picture goal is to continue to use these very effective drugs but to also find better ways of both detecting and preventing the injury caused to the heart,” Lustberg said.

By Becky King, Monday, August 23, 2010

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