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Keywords:

  • cardiovascular disease;
  • endothelial dysfunction;
  • inflammation;
  • nuclear factor kappa-B;
  • radiotherapy/adverse effects;
  • radiation injuries

Abstract.  Halle M, Hall P, Tornvall P (Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden). Cardiovascular disease associated with radiotherapy: activation of nuclear factor kappa-B (Review). J Intern Med 2011; 269: 469–477.

There have been several recent reports of an increased risk of cardiovascular disease after radiotherapy. Hence, with an increasing number of cancer survivors, the incidence of cardiovascular disease caused by radiotherapy will increase. The existence of a type of vascular disease, or vasculopathy, induced by radiotherapy has been known for decades. It is important to identify and understand the molecular causes of this vasculopathy to determine preventive strategies. Recently, a chronic inflammation with similarities to atherosclerosis has been observed, with activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) as a possible cause. However, the trigger for NF-κB activation is unclear although it may be that reactive oxygen species or direct DNA damage is involved. To minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease in vulnerable patients, careful selection of patients, radiation dose and fractionation are important, together with the development of new techniques that reduce radiation dose to the blood vessels. In the light of the finding of an interaction between risk factors for cardiovascular disease and radiotherapy, it is reasonable to modify these factors including diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidaemia, hypertension and smoking. We belive that preventive strategies focusing on NF-κB can reduce the risk of future adverse cardiovascular events.