Sept. 27, 2022
Cardiologist joins growing cardio-oncology team
Dr. Sudhir Nishtala, MD, brings a unique set of skills to the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.
A clinical assistant professor in the Department of Cardiac Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine, Nishtala is a cardiologist with a background in pharmacy who specializes in echocardiography. His skill set enables him to pursue a clinical interest in cardio-oncology, which relies heavily on imaging techniques and looks at the impact radiation and drug therapies used to treat cancer have on the heart.
Cardio-oncology is an emerging field that focuses on detecting, monitoring and treating cardiovascular disease that occurs as a side effect of cancer treatments. According to Nishtala, success in the field depends on cooperation between specialists in hematology, oncology and cardiology who must carefully monitor patients to ensure they receive the right cancer treatments while mitigating risk of developing heart complications.
“It’s all about collaboration and communication,” says Nishtala. “You have to be part of a team because individualized decisions about treatment must be made for each patient.”
This focus on precision medicine makes Nishtala a great fit with the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, which is highly invested in precision medicine.
Nishtala says evolving technologies in the field of echocardiography allow practitioners to identify and monitor sub-clinical and clinical dysfunction in the heart of cancer patients more easily. This allows the team to pinpoint therapies that will best preserve cardiac function for individuals undergoing cardiotoxic therapy for their cancer.
Cancer patients are at an elevated risk of developing cardiovascular disease because some cancer treatments can damage the heart. Several factors go into the risk level for each patient, including age, health of their heart prior to cancer treatment, whether they are undergoing radiation and which pharmaceuticals are being used to treat their cancer.
According to Nishtala, more cancer patients are surviving longer and going on to develop cardiovascular disease. Cancer treatments have also evolved, but relatively few clinical trials have been done to look at how these treatments will impact the heart.
“It’s critical that clinical trials continue in this area,” says Nishtala, noting the Calgary cardio-oncology team conducts ongoing research, to which he will contribute.
Nishtala’s interest in cardiology is a natural fit. Prior to pursuing a degree in medicine, he was a pharmacist who worked in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at the Foothills Medical Centre.
During medical school at the University of Calgary, he tried other areas of medicine, but his interest in cardiology persisted.
“There are so many avenues to take within cardiology, and my background in pharmacology also compelled me to pursue that interest,” said Nishtala, explaining looking at the impact of pharmaceutical treatments for cancer on the heart is a critical part of the field. “It was quite apparent that I was interested in pursuing cardiology.”
After graduating from medical school, Nishtala stayed in Calgary to pursue internal medicine and a cardiology residency. He then completed his Level III Adult Echocardiography Fellowship at the University of Alberta.
His interests in pharmacology and echocardiography allowed him the opportunity to collaborate with both Drs. Ian Paterson and Harald Becher at the Mazankowski Heart Institute, who have expertise in cardio-oncology.
Nishtala was recently recruited to Calgary, where he is using his skills in the echo labs and at Calgary’s cardio-oncology clinic.
He is happy to be back.
“I am really excited to be in Calgary within the Division of Cardiology,” says Nishtala. “It has been a goal of mine to be recruited to Calgary where I am pleased to be working with such a talented and innovative team.”
Dr. Sudhir Nishtala, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Cardiac Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.