Doxorubicin is a highly effective and widely used cytotoxic agent with application that is limited by cardiotoxicity related to the cumulative dose of the drug. A large-scale study that retrospectively evaluated the cardiotoxicity of doxorubicin reported that an estimated 7% of patients developed doxorubicin-related congestive heart failure (CHF) after a cumulative dose of 550 mg/m2. To assess whether this estimate is reflective of the incidence in the broader clinical oncology setting, the authors evaluated data from three prospective studies to determine both the incidence of doxorubicin-related CHF and the accumulated dose of doxorubicin at which CHF occurs.
A group of 630 patients who were randomized to a doxorubicin-plus-placebo arm of three Phase III studies, two studies in patients with breast carcinoma and one study in patients with small cell lung carcinoma, were included in the analysis.
Thirty-two of 630 patients had a diagnosis of CHF. Analysis indicated that an estimated cumulative 26% of patients would experience doxorubicin-related CHF at a cumulative dose of 550 mg/m2. Age appeared to be an important risk factor for doxorubicin-related CHF after a cumulative dose of 400 mg/m2, with older patients (age > 65 years) showing a greater incidence of CHF compared with younger patients (age ≤ 65 years). In addition, > 50% of the patients who experienced doxorubicin-related CHF had a reduction < 30% in left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) while they were on study.
Doxorubicin-related CHF occurs with greater frequency and at a lower cumulative dose than previously reported. These findings further indicate that LVEF is not an accurate predictor of CHF in patients who receive doxorubicin. Cancer 2003;97:2869–79. © 2003 American Cancer Society.