More than just ‘chemo brain’: Cancer impacts memory, too

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby


People undergoing cancer treatment often report experiencing “chemo brain,” or states of confusion and cognitive impairment due to aggressive chemotherapy treatment. But new research suggests that these cognitive problems might start earlier, with the development of cancer tumors.

Researchers at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto, Canada, conducted a study focusing on the “chemo brain” effect, with the purpose of understanding to what extent these states of cognitive impairment are caused by the treatment.

Lead author Dr. Gordon Winocur and his team conducted experiments in mice, which led them to observe that problems in learning and recall began to occur prior to chemotherapy in the animals with cancer.

“Our work,” explains Dr. Winocur, “isolated that the cancer is responsible for some of the memory and thinking complaints experienced by cancer survivors, and that drug therapy adds to the problem.”

He adds, “Both factors independently affect brain function in different ways, which can lead to the development of other psychological disturbances, such as anxiety and depression.”

The team’s findings were recently published in the journal Neuroscience.