Research Article

Doxorubicin cardiotoxicity: possible role of digoxin in its prevention.

Br Med J 1977; 2 doi: (Published 03 December 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;2:1447
  1. D Guthrie,
  2. A L Gibson


    Twenty-nine patients with gynaecological cancers who received over 400 mg of doxorubicin were monitored electrocardiographically to determine whether cardiac glycosides countered the adverse effects of high total doses of doxorubicin. Minor electrocardiographical changes were noted in five out of six patients who were not receiving a cardiac glycoside and four out of six who were receiving ouabain, and none of the 16 who were receiving digoxin. One other patient on digoxin stopped taking it and developed cardiomyopathy. One patient on ouabain also developed cardiomyopathy. So far nine patients on digoxin have received between 550 and 1000 mg/m2 of doxorubicin without ill effect. Cardiac glycosides are thought to prevent doxorubicin cardiomyopathy by competitively inhibiting doxorubicin at its receptor sites, but ouabain has a much shorter half life than doxorubicin and its metabolites and so is less effective than digoxin.