Giving a chemotherapy infusion over six or more hours may reduce the risk of heart problems from commonly used cancer drugs, according to a review of research.
Anthracycline drugs, which include doxorubicin, are used to treat a wide range of cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma, lung and breast cancer. The drugs carry a risk of causing damage to the heart leading to heart failure.
Dutch researchers found that the rate of heart failure was significantly lower in patients who had an anthracycline infusion which lasted six hours compared with patients who had shorter infusion times.
The review of five studies of 557 patients found that the longer infusions cut the risk of heart failure by almost 75%. The treatment effect on the patients' tumour was the same, regardless of the infusion time.
This group of drugs is commonly used in children and the researchers call for the effect of longer infusions to be evaluated in children.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2006) Online publication. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005008.pub2.