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Cancer and cardiovascular disease: can we treat one without causing the other?

Associate Professor Doan Ngo, Institution: The University of Newcastle

2020 Future Leader Fellowship

Years funded: 2021-2025


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among patients living with cancer. Advances in anti-cancer treatments have led to a significant rise in cancer survivorship: an estimated 1 in 18 Australians (~2 million) would have survived cancer in 2040 – a 72% increase.  Currently, there are over 20 million patients living with cancer worldwide. These cancer survivors have an 8-fold increased risk of CVD.  Recognising that, American Heart Association announced $15 million boost in funding prioritised to reduce cardiovascular burden in these people, while in Australia, the field of cardio-oncology is under-studied, with no dedicated funding and limited research capacity.

The overall goal of this research program is to reduce acute and chronic cardiovascular diseases in a growing group of cancer survivors, who are at significantly increased risk of cardiovascular complications. This program of research covers the spectrum of: 1) fundamental research to evaluate and understand mechanisms of action of candidate drugs that could have dual role: as anti-cancer as well as cardioprotective agents both in vitro and in animal models; 2) discovery research to determine blood biomarkers, imaging modality, and clinical factors to allow individualized risk assessments of patients for development of CVD during and after cancer treatment; 3) translation, implementation, and integration of comprehensive multimodality cardiovascular assessment approaches into cancer care: from diagnosis to long term survivorship.

The cost of care for CVD exceeds $7 billion annually, with expenditure expected to increase markedly in the future due to an ageing population and a rising group of cancer patients who are at high risk of developing CVD. The major outcome of this program of research is to establish knowledge-base and framework to prevent and reduce CVD burden in a growing number of patients living with cancer.

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