Physicians Hall Front

Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Researchers to Study Genetic Causes of Radiation-Induced Heart Complications

Milwaukee, July 16, 2019 – More than half of cancer patients undergo radiation, and while the therapy can help cure the disease, radiation exposure during the treatment of breast and lung cancers frequently causes collateral damage to the heart. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) will perform a pioneering study into how genes can influence radiation sensitivity in order to discover new therapeutic targets to limit or reverse subsequent heart complications.

With more than $2.3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, this five-year project will be led by breast cancer researcher Carmen Bergom, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Surgery at MCW.

Mounting evidence suggests that complex genetic modifiers contribute to the risk of radiation-induced toxicities in cancer patients, yet these genetic modifiers remain largely unknown and poorly understood. Furthermore, no genetic variants are currently used to dictate radiation dose constraints to the heart, and no therapies exist to protect against radiation-induced heart damage. Dr. Bergom’s team has developed the first genetic model to identify hereditary modifiers of this condition, and preliminary results indicate that it may be possible to identify individuals at a high risk for radiation-induced heart disease based on the presence of inheritable genetic mutations.

“The aim of this study is to use genetic mapping to identify why some individuals suffer radiation-induced heart disease or failure while others do not, and to test the efficacy of novel therapies to prevent or mitigate these complications,” Dr. Bergom said. “By focusing on using unique genetic models to enhance the therapeutic ratio of radiation, this research will ultimately lead to more effective and personalized cancer care.”

MCW Media Contacts

The media relations team at MCW is happy to assist in coordinating experts for interviews. Please reach out to us at:
(414) 955-8761
Contact us

Contact Location Lab Photo