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Guidelines created to prevent heart complications in children fighting cancer

Sydney, Australia | Xinhua | An Australian-led research group has created new international clinical guidelines to help prevent and treat heart complications in children during cancer treatment.

The guideline, which involves 11 domains of cardio-oncology care, was led by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and published in the JACC: Advances journal.

It defines the high-risk group of pediatric cancer patients who should have a heart check-up, formalizes a minimum standard of investigations required of a patient and provides recommendations to protect young hearts.

Management and surveillance of patients receiving different classes of drugs used to treat cancer were also included in the guideline.

“This is the first pediatric international guideline proposed to begin capturing pediatric cardio-oncology data and hence lead to further advances in the field,” co-author and MCRI’s Senior Research Officer Ben Felmingham told Xinhua on Monday.

Felmingham noted that some drugs used to treat cancer have an unwanted impact on the heart, while being very beneficial for treating cancer.

“The impact these anti-cancer drugs have on the heart differs from person to person and some people are more susceptible than others, which as to exactly why is still being investigated by medical professionals and researchers,” said the expert.

In Felmingham’s eyes, the guideline can help to conduct proactive monitoring for these cardiotoxicity side effects from anti-cancer drugs and act before symptoms of toxicity to the heart become significant.

It’s also a framework for a universal approach to gathering data in a methodical manner which may allow us to further investigate cardiac toxicities, he added.

Rachel Conyers, another co-author and associate professor from MCRI, said in a statement that heart complications are a leading cause of death for childhood cancer survivors, second only to cancer relapse, and that some cancer drugs had increased the chances of cardiac side effects that occur early on during therapy.

“Modern treatments including precision medicine have broadened the agents that can cause heart problems,” said the expert, stressing that improving serious health outcomes in survivors remains an important and essential focus and prevention is key.

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