Unintended Consequences of Chemotherapy – Heart Disease in Cancer Survivors
Dr. Eugene Konorev at Kansas City University studies the harmful effects of chemotherapy treatment on the cardiovascular system. The goal of his research is to mitigate these negative side effects enabling patients to enjoy a healthier life post-cancer treatment.
While chemotherapy has saved millions of cancer patients, it has also damaged the hearts of many cancer survivors. The American Heart Association reported that patient risk of heart failure increases 5% after eight chemotherapy treatments and the risk rises to 48% after 14 doses.
“Patients with early stage breast cancer are more likely to die of heart disease than cancer, and heart disease often occurs in this group of patients as a result of their anticancer treatment” Dr. Konorev said. “Chemotherapy is very toxic and causes some noticeable side effects, like a patient losing their hair.” Some of the side effects, however, are not as apparent or correctable.
Dr. Konorev looks at cardiomyopathy caused by doxorubicin and related drugs used in cancer chemotherapy. These drugs damage the heart, making it harder to pump blood to the rest of your body, and often resulting in heart failure. Although these drugs can damage cardiac muscle directly, his team’s approach is to identify other important targets of doxorubicin in the heart that may ultimately contribute to the progression of heart failure.
“The first step is to gain insight into the mechanism itself,” Dr. Konorev said. His team has determined that the detrimental effects of these drugs on the heart may be mediated by certain pathways. “If we find an appropriate way to suppress these pathways, cardiac damage in these patients may be delayed or reduced”, he said.
His novel research has a potential wide-ranging impact. “We need to reach out and combine efforts with other institutions,” Dr Konorev says. His lab has collaborated on this project with Dr. Buddhadeb Dawn at the University of Kansas Medical Center and Dr. Shui Qing Ye at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.
Dr. Konorev’s interest in science and medicine began in grade school and steadily developed since then. During medical school, he participated in student lab research projects. After earning his PhD, he stayed in academia to teach and continue his research. As a mentor and researcher, he is inspired by the idea that new discoveries are waiting to be found if you can find a fresh way to approach them. He guides his students toward a unique approach because he knows it can lead to impactful discoveries.