Maintain a high suspicion for cardiac dysfunction and a low threshold for cardiac assessment with any patients who are survivors of adult cancers and may have received cardiotoxic therapy, a new guideline suggests.

The guideline, released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and endorsed by the American Heart Association, is intended to assist primary care physicians, oncologists, cardiologists, and any members of multidisciplinary cancer care teams in preventing and monitoring systolic cardiac dysfunction, which is “typically detected as low left ventricular ejection fraction,” said Saro H. Armenian, DO, and his associates on the expert panel that drafted the guidelines.

To develop the guidelines, the panel conducted a systematic review of 8 metaanalyses, 12 randomized clinical trials, 49 cohort studies, 32 before-and-after studies, and 3 cross-sectional studies published in 1999-2016. They addressed five key questions: Which cancer survivors are at increased risk for developing cardiac dysfunction? Which preventive strategies minimize that risk before cancer therapy is initiated? Which preventive strategies minimize that risk during administration of potentially cardiotoxic cancer therapies? Which cardiac monitoring approaches are preferred during cancer therapies? And which cardiac monitoring approaches are preferred after cancer therapy is completed?

Regarding the fifth question, the guideline advises clinicians to regularly assess and manage cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, and obesity in survivors of adult cancers, as well as to complete careful histories and physical examinations regularly. Any signs or symptoms that raise the suspicion of cardiac dysfunction should prompt an ECG (or cardiac MRI or multigated acquisition if an ECG isn’t available or technically feasible), assays of serum cardiac biomarkers, and, depending on the findings of these assessments, referral to a cardiologist.

“Patients also need to be advised that cardiac dysfunction can be a progressive disorder and may initially be asymptomatic; therefore, early and late warning signs and symptoms should be discussed,” said Dr. Armenian, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist and director of outcomes research in the department of population sciences at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., and his associates.

The guideline also includes a special section concerning health disparities. “Patients with cancer who are members of racial or ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately from comorbidities, experience more obstacles to receiving care, are more likely to be uninsured, and are at greater risk of receiving care of poor quality than other Americans. [They] may have a substantially higher burden of cardiovascular complications during and after cancer treatment, in part because of inequities in the management of cardiovascular risk factors,” the guidelines state (J Clin Oncol. 2016 Dec 5 [doi:10.1200/JCO.2016.70.5400]).

A copy of the guideline and further information, including a data supplement, a methodology supplement, slide sets, and clinical tools and resources, are available at guideline was supported by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Dr. Armenian reported having no relevant financial disclosures; his associates reported ties to numerous industry sources.