Scientists study radiation therapy’s use for ventricular arrhythmia

A medical image depicts a heartbeat

Doctors who treat patients with heart failure and ventricular arrhythmia, an irregular heart rhythm that can cause the heart to quiver or beat faster than normal, may use a variety of treatment options to mitigate risk for severe outcomes, including sudden cardiac death. Radiation therapy is emerging as one treatment option and will benefit from ongoing research, according to a study published in Nature Communications 
By evaluating laboratory models and outcomes from a small sample of patients with heart failure and ventricular tachycardia, medical researchers found some patients responded well to radiation therapy and within a few days. Using basic research models, the researchers found radiation therapy activated genes and signaling pathways in heart cells that supported heart-rhythm function. They note future research opportunities include studying the impact of providing patients with lower and targeted radiation doses instead of whole-heart radiation, which would mitigate the side effects of radiation. They also underscore the variability of ventricular tachycardia in patients with heart failure, which requires treatment decisions based on each patient’s cardiovascular anatomy and health needs. 

The study was partially supported by the NIH, including the NHLBI, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and the Office of the Director.  

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Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis