New program protects cardiac health of patients undergoing cancer care

Author: Michael Layoun, M.D., FACC, medical director, Jack Loacker Center for Cardio-Oncology, Providence Oregon

Thanks to improved diagnostic capability and therapies, the mortality rate for all cancers declined by 27% between 1999 and 2019. Overall, 10-year survival rates for the most common cancers have improved 50-80% during that period. As a result of this progress, in the next five years the U.S. will have 20 million cancer survivors.

However, as more people survive cancer, the potential for future cardiovascular events increases. For some patients, their heart disease is unrelated to their cancer. But for a growing number of patients, cancer treatments have caused, or may be contributing to, their heart disease.

While radiotherapy and chemotherapy can increase cancer survivorship, they also may be cardiotoxic. It is increasingly apparent that newer, targeted therapies also may be associated with cardiotoxicity, such as small molecule inhibitors and risk for various heart arrhythmias.

How the Jack Loacker Center for Cardio-Oncology works

The center was launched in early 2022 and will focus on strategies to prevent and treat adverse cardiovascular effects of cancer therapies. The center is named after Jack Loacker, a longtime Providence Cancer Institute donor, and is a joint collaboration between Providence Heart Institute and Providence Cancer Institute.

Working together, both institutes will identify at-risk individuals before adverse cardiac events have occurred. Referral pathways are being created, along with identification of a cardio-oncology nurse coordinator, to promptly refer such patients for the care they need. Further, involvement with international cardio-oncology registries, such as the immune checkpoint inhibitor myocarditis registry, are being established.

For some cancer therapies, it’s a challenge for the treating physician to minimize risks, many of which are unavoidable, while maximizing each patient’s chances of survival from their cancer. Our center will provide clinical approaches and research that support the patient and treating physician in protecting the patient’s cardiac health. 

Advanced clinical care

The center’s clinical program cares for patients throughout their cancer journey. This includes patients who:

  • Have pre-existing cardiac issues
  • Do not have cardiac issues but are susceptible to known adverse effects of cancer treatment
  • Receive treatments for which the adverse effects are not well-understood
  • May develop cardiovascular disease years after their cancer treatment

Our clinical services include:

  • Monitoring of potential cardio-toxicities of certain chemotherapies
  • Heart rhythm evaluation in patients experiencing arrhythmias related to chemotherapy
  • Evaluation and treatment of structural heart disease
  • Risk-reduction strategies for patients living with underlying coronary artery disease
  • Lifestyle modification and coaching to help people with cancer live to their fullest potential

Innovative research

The Jack Loacker Center for Cardio-Oncology also plans to conduct research on how these adverse cardiac effects arise, who is most vulnerable to them and how they can be prevented or reduced.

Our team will focus on identifying and understanding genetic factors that may contribute to the cardiovascular impacts of current and emerging cancer therapies. We will seek to learn why some cancer patients are more susceptible to cardiac effects than others.

Research also is essential to advance national standards for cardio-oncological care, especially related to how risk factors may be modified prior to treatment for cancer to prevent or reduce cardiovascular damage. 

To refer a patient, contact:

Providence Heart Clinic at The Oregon Clinic Gateway
1111 NE 99th Ave
Suite 201
Portland, OR 97220
Phone: 503-962-1000

For more information

About the Author

The inScope content team focuses on bringing you the latest in clinical news from our team of world-class medical providers and physician leaders.

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