Introduction: With advances in clinical oncology, the burden of morbidity and mortality for cancer survivors due to the cardiac side effects of the chemotherapy is steadily increasing. Treatment-related cardiac damage is progressive and often irreversible. Primary prevention of cardiotoxicity during treatment is possible with strategies like limiting the cumulative anthracycline dose, the use of anthracycline structural analogs, and especially cardioprotective agents. Areas covered: This review covers the various cardiotoxic chemotherapeutic agents, the pathophysiology of cardiotoxicity due to anthracyclines, and the clinical and subclinical presentations and progression of childhood anthracycline cardiotoxicity. We also discuss preventive measures and strategies, especially the cardioprotectant agent dexrazoxane where there is strong evidence-based support for its use with anthracycline chemotherapy. However, there is a paucity of evidence-based recommendations for diagnosing and treating cancer therapy-induced cardiovascular complications. Finally, we discuss the potential of cardio-oncology. Expert opinion: There is no ‘safe’ anthracycline dose if the goal is normal long-term cardiovascular status but higher lifetime cumulative doses of anthracyclines, higher dose rates, female sex, longer follow-up, younger age at anthracycline treatment, pre-existing cardiovascular disease, and cardiac irradiation are associated with more severe cardiotoxicity. With deeper understanding of the mechanisms of the adverse cardiac effects and identification of driver mutations causing these effects, personalized cancer therapy to limit cardiotoxic effects can be achieved, such as with the cardioprotectant dexrazoxane.
- Childhood cancer
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