Heart Tumor Program

Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center is the world’s leading medical destination for treatment of cardiac tumors. Renowned cardiovascular surgeon Michael J. Reardon, MD, and the center’s dedicated team of imaging specialists, cardiologists, oncologists and surgeons have spent a quarter of a century studying cardiac sarcomas (malignant heart tumors). Reardon has performed more autotransplantations for cancerous heart tumors than any other doctor globally and written most extensively about treating them. Houston Methodist sets the standard on how the world approaches and treats these diseases, and Reardon frequently is consulted by doctors at other highly reputable hospitals.

In 1998, Reardon performed the world’s first successful autotransplantation for a malignant heart tumor and is recognized as the pre-eminent expert in this technique. He travels around the world to teach autotransplantation and helps other hospitals develop their own programs, as part of what he describes as his lifelong quest to treat heart tumors. The average heart surgeon sees few of these cases throughout a career. Reardon sees three or four a month because patients come from all over the world for his expertise.

LEADING THE WAY IN AUTOTRANSPLANTATION — DR. Michael J. REARDON

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Houston Methodist continues to pioneer advanced techniques for treating the diseased heart, including autotransplantation — removing the heart to access a malignant tumor, then returning it to the body, cancer-free.

Our center and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center created the heart tumor program to collaborate with colleagues nationwide and develop patient treatments. These treatments, including autotransplantation, offer hope to patients, who often are told by doctors elsewhere there is no way to treat them. Reardon credits his mentors and teachers, including the legendary cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, with inspiring him to try and master autotransplantation to save patients with malignant heart tumors

“I knew (autotransplantation) would work, and I thought about it a lot,” Reardon said. “It was something I spent considerable time thinking about and planning out in my mind. I knew there were going to be other patients who needed this.”

Reardon takes the heart out of the body, removes the tumor, reconstructs the heart and re-implants it. Each case is different. Using advanced imaging, Reardon builds a 3-D model of the tumor and practices on it before he performs each surgery.

“I see patients the age of my daughters,” he said. “They have children the ages of my grandkids. They have often been told nothing can be done. I would not want that for my daughters. I would like to treat these patients the way I would like my daughters treated. I think we give these people the best hope in the world. I’ll remember these people until the day I die. Every case resonates with me.”

Left untreated, heart tumors, including those that are noncancerous, can lead to complications such as:

  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart murmur — an extra or unusual sound heard during a heartbeat
  • Blood flow blockage caused by tumor degeneration

About the Program

The Houston Methodist Cardio-Oncology Program was developed with  you in mind. Treating cancer effectively often requires powerful drugs and  therapies, including chemotherapy and radiation. It is our mission to help  minimize the impact of these treatments on your heart, so you can focus on  healing, surviving and thriving.   

To accomplish this, the dedicated specialists from the Houston Methodist  DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and the Houston Methodist Cancer  Center work together to ensure your heart stays healthy during and after  cancer treatment. Combining renowned cancer care with leading expertise  in general cardiology and cardiotoxicity gives you the comprehensive  treatment you need during this challenging time.   

Cardiotoxicity Screening

Cardiotoxicity, or damage to the heart caused by cancer drugs and  treatments, is important to check for during cancer treatment. Proactive  screening allows us to catch any heart problems early, manage them through  the course of your treatment, and provide any necessary follow-up care.  In addition to screening, the cardio-oncology team is committed to  keeping you informed about: 

  • Which drugs are cardiotoxic (harmful to the heart) 
  • The tests and treatments that can prevent significant cardiac  problems in the future   

Identification and Screening

Screening for cardiotoxicity during your cancer treatment is extremely important, as oftentimes there are no obvious symptoms. The cardiooncology team at Houston Methodist will work with you to prevent, identify and treat the early signs of heart damage. Patients who do have symptoms may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains or palpitations, or edema (swelling due to the fluid collection within the tissues of the body). Tests that screen for cardiotoxicity are noninvasive. They include (but are not limited to):

  • Blood tests – identify certain biomarkers in the body that indicate the heart is not working properly
  • Cardiac CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – assess heart function
  • Speckle-tracking strain echocardiography – measures how well the parts of the heart work and highlights any deformities of critical vessels

Conditions Treated

Primary heart tumors – often benign, or noncancerous, including: 

  • Myxoma – the most common primary benign tumor, typically in the left atrial chamber 
  • Papillary fibroelastoma – often in or around the heart valves   
  • Cardiac paraganglioma – usually in the roof of the left atrium 
  • Hemangioma – in the pericardium, ventricles, atria or tricuspid valve 
  • Lipoma – often removed because of malignancy risk 
  • Fibroma – most common in infants and children 
  • Castleman’s disease – rare disorder caused by a benign lymph node tumor that spreads to the heart 

Malignant heart tumors, including: 

  • Angiosarcoma – aggressive and most common malignant, primary heart tumor originating in the blood vessel lining 
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma – soft tissue sarcoma 
  • Leiomyosarcoma – cancer of smooth cells found in the involuntary muscles, including the heart 
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma – a fast-growing tumor causing more than half of the soft tissue sarcomas in children   

Symptoms

  • Chest pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath during activity
  • Difficulty breathing while lying flat or sleeping
  • Persistent cough
  • Finger discoloration
  • Swelling
  • Unintended weight loss

Treatments

Heart Tumor Program
Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center
6550 Fannin St. 
Smith Tower, 14th Floor
Scheduling: 713.441.5200