Long-term survivors of early breast cancer treated with chemotherapy are characterized by a pro-inflammatory biomarker profile compared to matched controls

Jasper Tromp, Liselotte M Boerman, Iziah E Sama, Saskia W M C Maass, John H Maduro, Yoran M Hummel, Marjolein Y Berger, Geertruida H de Bock, Jourik A Gietema, Annette J Berendsen, Peter van der Meer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Chemo- and radiotherapy for breast cancer (BC) can lead to cardiotoxicity even years after the initial treatment. The pathophysiology behind these late cardiac effects is poorly understood. Therefore, we studied a large panel of biomarkers from different pathophysiological domains in long-term BC survivors, and compared these to matched controls. Methods and results: In total 91 biomarkers were measured in 688 subjects: 342 BC survivors stratified either to treatment with chemotherapy ± radiotherapy (n = 170) or radiotherapy alone (n = 172) and matched controls. Mean age was 59 ± 9 years and 65 ± 8 years for women treated with chemotherapy ± radiotherapy and radiotherapy alone, respectively, with a mean time since treatment of 11 ± 5.5 years. No biomarkers were differentially expressed in survivors treated with radiotherapy alone vs. controls (P for all >0.1). In sharp contrast, a total of 19 biomarkers were elevated, relative to controls, in BC survivors treated with chemotherapy ± radiotherapy after correction for multiple comparisons (P <0.05 for all). Network analysis revealed upregulation of pathways relating to collagen degradation and activation of matrix metalloproteinases. Furthermore, several inflammatory biomarkers including growth differentiation factor 15, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 16, tumour necrosis factor super family member 13b and proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9, elevated in survivors treated with chemotherapy, showed an independent association with lower left ventricular ejection fraction. Conclusion: Breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy ± radiotherapy show a distinct biomarker profile associated with mild cardiac dysfunction even 10 years after treatment. These results suggest that an ongoing pro-inflammatory state and activation of matrix metalloproteinases following initial treatment with chemotherapy might play a role in the observed cardiac dysfunction in late BC survivors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1239-1246
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Heart Failure
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 20-Feb-2020


  • Cardiotoxicity
  • Biomarkers
  • Pathophysiology
  • Cardio-oncology
  • RISK

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