CCMC researchers looking into minimizing risk of heart damage among childhood cancers survivors

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Cancer survivor Kamran Rahman is in good health, but when he was 13-years-old, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

“We started chemotherapy just about, actually the next day after my diagnosis because of how aggressive the form of leukemia I had was,” he says.

A bone marrow transplant saved his life.

Now 21-years-old, Kamran credits healthy lifestyle choices for his quality of life.

Kamran says, “I’m just trying to eat healthier, watch what I’m eating, work out a lot.”

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“Even though he has been very fortunate, he is at risk from the treatments he has had,” explains Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Andrea Orsey.

She and Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Olga Toro-Salazar at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are part of a team of researchers looking into reducing the risk of heart failure among patients like Kamran with childhood cancers.

“What we have developed are guidelines,” says Dr. Orsey, “To try and recognize which patients are at more risk, medium risk, or high risk for having heart complications related to their chemotherapy.”

The study is just beginning, and there’s more to it.

“We do want to change the way,” says Dr. Toro-Salazar, “The approach we do and emphasize how important it is to be healthy, how important it is to eat well.”

Along with — how important it is to exercise.

Dr. Toro-Salazar says, “What we noted by looking at our patients and doing follow ups is that most of the patients that are doing better are the ones who are exercising at a regular basis.”

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Kamran’s cancer history is part of a database now being analyzed to get a better understanding of the risk factors.

He says, “My heart is in good condition and hopefully I should be in the low risk group of these possible conditions in the future.”

The research is funded by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation

The bottom line – Drs. Orsey and Toro-Salazar say their hope is that in the future when children get diagnosed with cancer, they can identify their young patients’ genetic background, their potential health risks, and what drugs are better for them.

For more information on how to participate, contact Dr. Orsey at AOrsey@connecticutchildrens.org

And to learn more about St. Baldrick’s Foundation, log onto www.stbaldricks.org.

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