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Doxorubicin – Calorie Restriction?

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…known cardioprotective intervention, exercise training, with Calorie Restriction (CR) results in additive benefits in the protection against doxorubicin cardiotoxicity.

Doxorubicin as well as other chemotherapy regimens can damage the cancer patient’s heart. That much is well-documented. The issue for people reading this post is what, if anything, cancer patients and survivors can do about it. Before I go into possible therapies let me explain what cardotoxicity is.

Cardiotoxic chemotherapy refers to the side effects of certain chemotherapy drugs that can potentially harm the heart. Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer that involves using powerful drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. While it’s effective at targeting rapidly dividing cancer cells, it can also affect healthy cells in the body, including those in the heart.

Some chemotherapy drugs are known to have cardiotoxic effects, meaning they can cause damage to the heart muscle or other parts of the cardiovascular system. This can lead to a range of cardiac problems, including:

  1. Cardiomyopathy: This is a condition where the heart muscle becomes weak and has difficulty pumping blood effectively.
  2. Arrhythmias: These are irregular heartbeats, which can be too fast, too slow, or irregular in rhythm.
  3. Pericarditis: This is an inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart (the pericardium), which can cause chest pain and other symptoms.
  4. Heart Failure: This occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently, leading to symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, and fluid retention.
  5. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Some chemotherapy drugs can lead to an increase in blood pressure.
  6. Thrombosis: Certain chemotherapy drugs can increase the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries or veins.
  7. Coronary Artery Disease: Chemotherapy can potentially accelerate the development of plaque in the arteries, leading to reduced blood flow to the heart.

It’s important to note that not all chemotherapy drugs have the same level of cardiotoxicity, and the risk depends on various factors including the specific drugs used, the dosage, the patient’s overall health, and any pre-existing heart conditions.

First and foremost, I don’t believe that only some cancer patients who undergo doxorubicin or other known cardiotoxic chemo regimens experience damage to their heart muscle. I think all patients who undergo cardiotoxic chemotherapy  experience at least some heart damage…the issue is how and when this damage shows itself.

In my case, I underwent A LOT of cardiotoxic regimens. I was young (35) and in pretty good shape so my heart damage appeared about 15 years after I underwent a chemo-cocktail called  vincristine, adriamycin, and doxorubicin (VAD).

While heart damage was hinted at during my active VAD treatment, obvious symptoms such as chemotherapy-induced atrial fibrillation did not occur until late 2010.

According to the article linked and excerpted below, exercise and calorie restriction can reduce the known heart-damaging effects of doxorubicin.

To learn more about cardiotoxic chemotherapy- read the posts below-

Are you considering cardiotoxic chemo? Have you already undergone cardiotoxic chemo and are wondering what you can do about it Let me know.


David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Effects of Calorie Restriction and Voluntary Exercise on Doxorubicin-Induced Cardiotoxicity

“Doxorubicin (DOX) is a widely used chemotherapeutic agent with known cardiotoxic properties, while calorie restriction (CR) and exercise have well-documented cardioprotective effects. No studies have investigated the effects of CR alone or the combined effects of CR and exercise on DOX cardiotoxicity…

Cardiotoxicity associated with the use of anthracyclines such as DOX is a major clinical dilemma, and it is the primary reason for terminating their use during the course of cancer treatment. Continued use of these chemotherapeutic agents may be considered if there are effective strategies to mitigate cardiotoxic effects, which for some patients may be the best treatment option…


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