Original Report

Congestive heart failure during induction with anthracycline-based therapy in patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia

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Background Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a highly curable malignancy. However, 30% of patients die during therapy induction from bleeding, differentiation syndrome (DS), and/or infection. Recommendations suggest that congestive heart failure (CHF) is a presenting feature of DS.

Objective To assess the incidence of CHF during induction in patients with APL.

Methods A retrospective chart review was performed of patients diagnosed with APL from December 2004 to July 2013 and managed at Georgia Regents University Cancer Center. Baseline and follow-up ejection fractions (EF) were recorded and patients with a drop in EF during the induction period were evaluated.

Results Of the 40 evaluable patients, 37 received idarubicin-based chemotherapy. 16 of the 37 patients had a repeat ECHO for suspected cardiomyopathy, and 6 of the 16 patients (37.5%) demonstrated a decrease in EF (absolute drop, 10%-35%). The cardiac function recovered completely in 4 patients and partially in 1 patient. Gender, history of hypertension, and body mass index did not seem to correlate with incidence of CHF.

Limitations The patient population is very small given the rarity of the disease. Present practice patterns do not routinely address CHF in the differential diagnosis.

Conclusions Patients with APL are at risk for cardiac toxicity for a number of reasons, including cytokine storm and inflammatory state, use of anthracyclines, and DS. The clinical presentation of DS most commonly involves dyspnea and fluid retention, which are also symptoms of heart failure. Prompt cardiac evaluation should be undertaken to rule out CHF in APL patients who are going to receive an anthracycline-based therapy, because early intervention may result in an improved outcome.

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