07 October 2019

The blood cancer drug ibrutinib causes hypertension more often than previously thought, potentially leading to other cardiovascular problems, doctors warned yesterday.

The problem can be effectively treated with anti-hypertensive drugs, according to the US researchers.

The study, reported in the journal Blood, found that within six months more than half of patients prescribed the drug developed new or worsened hypertension. There was also an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, researchers at the Ohio State University, USA, found.

The single-centre study involved 562 patients with an average age of 64, treated with the drug for B-cell cancers over an eight-year period.

Nearly 72% were newly diagnosed with hypertension within a period of about 30 months. Their risk was about 13 times greater compared to people of a similar age not taking the drug, the researchers say.

Cardiovascular complications were more than twice as common (19.1% vs 8.2%) in those treated with ibrutinib who had worsened blood pressure, compared with those who did not experience worsened blood pressure. Cardiovascular events suffered by patients included heart failure, stroke, heart attack, and other heart rhythm problems, including sudden cardiac death.

Dr Daniel Addison, who led the research team, said: “Overall, both the magnitude and level of hypertension that developed was higher than previously thought and appears to portend a higher risk of other cardiac events.

He added: “It is important to emphasise that this is a lifesaving therapy with dramatic cancer treatment benefits, including improved survival; it has become ubiquitous to the treatment of many blood cancers and will continue to be applied to other cancers.

“Accordingly, we need to find the best ways to manage high blood pressure and protect against other heart-related issues.”




Dickerson, T., Wiczer, T., Waller, A., Philippon, J., Porter, K., Haddad, D., Guha, A., Rogers, K.A., Bhatt, S., Byrd, J.C., Woyach, J.A., Awan, F., Addison, D. (2019) “Hypertension and Incident Cardiovascular Events Following Ibrutinib Initiation”, Blood, doi: 10.1182/blood.2019000840