Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are the leading causes of death in most countries. These diseases share many common risk factors as well as pathogenetic determinants, and their incidence is related to age in an exponential manner. Furthermore, it has become apparent that several treatments used in therapy or even in prevention of cancer can impair the structural and functional integrity of the cardiovascular system, giving rise to an interdisciplinary field: cardiooncology. However, tumors and cardiovascular diseases also share common protective factors: they can be prevented either by avoiding exposure to recognized risk factors, and/or by favoring the intake of protective compounds and by modulating the host defense machinery. These latter approaches are generally known as chemoprevention. A great variety of dietary and pharmacological agents have been shown to be potentially capable of preventing cancer in preclinical models, most of which are of plant origin. Phytochemicals, in particular diet-derived compounds, have therefore been proposed and applied in clinical trials as cancer chemopreventive agents. There is now increasing evidence that some phytochemicals can be also protective for the heart, having the potential to reduce cancer, cardiovascular disease and even anticancer drug-induced cardiotoxicity. We introduce the concept that these compounds induce pre-conditioning, a low level cellular stress that induces strong protective mechanisms conferring resistance to toxins such as cancer chemotherapeutics. Cancer cells and cardiomyocytes have fundamental differences in their metabolism and sensitivity to preconditioning, autophagy and apoptosis, so that dosage of the prevention compounds is important. Here we discuss the mechanisms responsible for the cardiotoxicity of anticancer drugs, the possibility to prevent them and provide examples of diet-derived phytochemicals and other biological substances that could be exploited for protecting the cardiovascular system according to a joint cardio-oncological preventative approach.
Keywords: cancer, chemoprevention, cardiovascular diseases, cardioncology, cardiotoxicity, phytochemicals, preconditioning, autophagy, bioenergetics, diet
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