Radiation-induced heart disease (RIHD) is a serious side effect of radiotherapy for intrathoracic and chest wall tumors. The threshold dose for development of clinically significant RIHD is believed to be lower than previously assumed. Therefore, research into mechanisms of RIHD has gained substantial momentum. RIHD becomes clinically apparent ten to fifteen years after radiation exposure. Chronic manifestations of RIHD include accelerated atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy, and valve abnormalities. Reducing exposure of the heart during radiotherapy is the only known method of preventing RIHD, and there are no approaches to reverse RIHD once it occurs. We use a combination of pharmacological and genetic animal models to determine biological mechanisms of RIHD. Major technological advances in small animal research have made this type of study more valuable. The long-term goal of this work is to identify targets for intervention in RIHD, thereby enhancing the efficacy and safety of thoracic radiotherapy.

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