As reported by the Bristol Press, April 16, 2010.

Calhoun Cardiology Center Awarded Breast Cancer Grant

By Scott Whipple

FARMINGTON — Cardiologists, oncologists and radiologists at the University of Connecticut Health Center will work together to research the effects of chemotherapy on breast cancer survivors’ heart health.

To lead the effort, the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative has awarded a $50,000 grant to Dr. Erick Avelar, director of noninvasive cardiac imaging at the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center.

"Some breast cancer patients who receive chemotherapy are susceptible to developing heart muscle disease called cardiomyopathy," Avelar explained. "There are no current available imaging tests or biomarkers that can detect early cardiac changes associated with chemotherapy."

Prospective study participants are women who receive potentially heart-damaging chemotherapy.

"If we, the oncologists, determine they’re able to and will benefit from such chemotherapy, they will also be offered the study," said Dr. Susan Tannenbaum, medical director of the Clinical and Translational Breast Program at the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Both radiologists and cardiologists will interpret the advanced cardiac images. Researchers will study the effectiveness of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging in early detection of heart injury. They will also investigate the potential of a biomarker, or early indicator, that they already are studying called serum caspases, which they say is an indicator of cell death. This research is unique to the lab of Dr. Bruce Liang, director of the Calhoun Cardiology Center.

“Early diagnosis via a blood test would be simple and may offer a chance to begin early treatment for cancer drug-related heart failure,” Liang said.

“The thought is, between the biomarkers and our cardiac imaging capability, we can better determine the risk of early cardiac dysfunction and ultimately improve patient management strategies,” Avelar said.

Connecticut Breast Health Initiative President Joyce Bray believes the study will affect a large number of women with breast cancer who are treated with chemotherapy and face the risk of developing significant cardiac complications.

"Collaboration by the Departments of Oncology, Cardiology and Radiology made this grant very exciting to fund," Bray said.