Research has long supported a link between cancer treatments such as chemotherapy that can weaken the heart and subsequent cardiovascular disease in patients. The effectiveness of modern treatments means “patients are living longer, but they’re also experiencing complications,” says Kathryn Moore, the director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at NYU Langone Health. Far less work has been done investigating how cancer responds in turn to a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction (MI). A new study by Moore and her colleagues reports that breast cancer patients who experience a heart attack are 60 percent more likely to die from their cancer than patients who don’t.
The team’s experiments in mice explain why that might be. Tumors in mice that experienced a simulated heart attack grew larger than those in mice that did not, and a subsequent analysis of immune cells taken from bone marrow, plasma, and tumors revealed a large-scale epigenetic reprogramming of their genomes that allowed the cancer to thrive.