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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Oct 18;(4):CD005006.

Different anthracycline derivates for reducing cardiotoxicity in cancer patients.

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  • 1Emma Children's Hospital/Academic Medical Center, Pediatrics, Meibergdreef 9, PO Box 22660, 1100 DD Amsterdam, Netherlands.



The use of anthracycline chemotherapy is limited by the occurrence of cardiotoxicity. In an effort to prevent this cardiotoxicity, different anthracycline derivates have been studied.


The primary objective was to determine the occurrence of cardiotoxicity with the use of different anthracycline derivates in cancer patients.


We searched the databases of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2005), MEDLINE (1966 to April 2005) and EMBASE (1980 to April 2005). In addition, we searched reference lists of relevant articles, conference proceedings and ongoing trials databases.


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in which different anthracycline derivates were compared in cancer patients (children and adults).


Two authors independently performed the study selection, quality assessment and data-extraction including adverse effects.


We identified five RCTs of varying quality addressing epirubicin versus doxorubicin (1036 patients) with the same dose. The meta-analysis showed no evidence for a significant difference in the occurrence of clinical heart failure between the treatment groups (RR = 0.36, 95% CI 0.12 to 1.11). However, there is some suggestion of a lower rate of clinical heart failure in patients treated with epirubicin. We identified two RCTs with varying quality addressing liposomal-encapsulated doxorubicin versus conventional doxorubicin (521 patients). The meta-analysis showed a significantly lower rate of both clinical heart failure and clinical and subclinical heart failure combined in patients treated with liposomal-encapsulated doxorubicin (RR = 0.20, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.75 and RR = 0.38, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.59 respectively). It should be noted that in one of the studies patients in the liposomal-encapsulated doxorubicin group received a higher cumulative anthracycline dose than patients in the doxorubicin group. For the other possible combinations of different anthracycline derivates only one RCT was identified.


We are not able to favour either epirubicin or doxorubicin when given with the same dose. Based on the currently available evidence on heart failure, we conclude that in adults with a solid tumour liposomal-encapsulated doxorubicin should be favoured over doxorubicin. For both epirubicin versus doxorubicin and liposomal-encapsulated doxorubicin versus conventional doxorubicin no conclusions can be made about the effects of treatment in children treated with anthracyclines and also not in patients diagnosed with leukaemia. More research is needed. For other combinations of anthracycline derivates not enough evidence was available to make definitive conclusions about the occurrence of cardiotoxicity in patients treated with anthracyclines.

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