Penn Medicine study shows side effects of breast cancer drug

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A new preclinical study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania outlines the effects a certain breast cancer drug has on an individual’s cardiovascular health.

The findings, published this month in Nature Communications, shows that ErbB2, a receptor protein needed for proper heart blood-vessel development, is negatively affected by trastuzumab, a breast cancer drug.

The researchers found that the loss of semaphorin 3d, a vascular guidance molecule, leads to improper connections of the coronary veins forming within a developing heart.  

“These findings give us a possible explanation for why there can be serious cardiovascular side effects, including heart failure, in patients receiving anti-ErbB2 therapies such as Herceptin,” said Jon Epstein, MD, a professor of cell and developmental biology, executive vice dean and chief scientific offer at Penn Medicine and the lead author of the study, in a statement.

The study helps pave a way for researchers to find better ways to monitor and detect possibly dangerous side effects to the heart before symptoms arise.

“This work adds to an array of signals that affect how vessels grow and offers more targets to develop that promote or block the growth of blood vessels,” Epstein said.