The Importance of Radiation Dose to the Atherosclerotic Plaque in the Left Anterior Descending Coronary Artery for Radiation-Induced Cardiac Toxicity of Breast Cancer Patients?

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IMPORTANCE: Radiation-induced acute coronary events (ACEs) may occur as treatment-related late side effect of breast cancer (BC) radiation. However, the underlying mechanisms behind this radiation-induced cardiac disease remains to be determined.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that radiation dose to calcified atherosclerotic plaques in the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) is a better predictor for ACEs than radiation dose to the whole heart or left ventricle in BC patients treated with radiotherapy (RT).

DESIGN, SETTING, PARTICIPANTS, AND MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The study cohort consisted of 910 BC patients treated with postoperative RT after breast conserving surgery. In total, 163 patients had an atherosclerotic plaque in the LAD. The endpoint was the occurrence of an ACE after treatment. For each individual patient, the mean heart dose (MHD), volume of the left ventricle receiving ≥ 5 Gy (LV-V5), mean LAD dose and mean dose to calcified atherosclerotic plaques in the LAD, if present, were acquired based on planning CT-scans. Cox-regression analysis was used to analyse the effects on the cumulative incidence of ACEs.

RESULTS: The median follow-up time was 9.2 years (range: 0.1-14.3 years). In total, 38 patients (4.2%) developed an ACE during follow-up. For patients with an atherosclerotic plaque (n=163) the mean dose to the atherosclerotic plaque was the strongest predictor for ACE, even after correction for cardiovascular risk factors (HR: 1.269 (95% CI: 1.090-1.477), P=0.002). The LV-V5 was associated with ACEs in patients without atherosclerotic plaques in the LAD (n=680) (hazard ratio (HR): 1.021 (95% CI: 1.003-1.039; P=0.023).

CONCLUSION AND RELEVANCE: The results of this study suggest that radiation dose to pre-existing calcified atherosclerotic plaques in the LAD is strongly associated with the development of ACEs in BC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1350-1359
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics
Issue number5
Early online date10-Mar-2021
Publication statusPublished - 1-Aug-2021



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