So far, fewer than 1 percent of patients taking these medicines — called checkpoint inhibitors — have developed heart trouble. But in those who do, the damage can be severe, and the drugs have led to several deaths by provoking the immune system to attack the heart. The risk appears highest when patients take two different checkpoint inhibitors at once.
“This is a new complication of potentially lifesaving drugs,” said Dr. Javid J. Moslehi, the director of cardio-oncology at Vanderbilt School of Medicine and the senior author of an article published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine. “We’re working to develop treatments for it. Our job is not to say the drugs are bad, but to say, ‘How can we deal with it?’”
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