Feb. 6 (UPI) — Researchers may have struck a balance between making chemotherapy more effective and making it safer for the heart.

Scientists in Canada were able to stabilize a metabolic protein in the heart called pyruvate kinase M2, or PKM2 using a drug compound, according to a study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

This stabilization prevented the chemotherapy from damaging the heart while still aggressively attacking lung tumors during experiments with mice.

“At the clinical level, we’ve known for some time that heart dysfunction from chemotherapy is a major issue, but at the scientific level, we’ve only recently begun to look at signalling pathways that may be implicated in this condition,” Gopi Sutendra, who runs the Cardio-Oncology department at the University of Alberta and study author, said in a news release.

Traditionally, chemotherapy damages all tissue, but since heart cells recover more slowly, its damage is often irreparable.

“This is the first targeted therapy at the preclinical level to actually prevent the side-effects of chemotherapy on the heart and simultaneously enhance tumor regression,” Sutendra said.

Now, the researchers want to begin clinical trials to develop a drug that can be used along with chemotherapy to stabilize PKM2. They think this treatment can expand to other forms of heart failure, as well.

“The beauty of our work is that many of these drugs are already being tried in early-phase clinical trials for other diseases,” Sutendra said. “We’re really happy because we think that we can push it to the next phase where hopefully patients can start seeing some of these treatments in the near future.”

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