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December 6, 2006

Chemo Drugs Linked to Brain Damage

Topics: Medical Science News

brain.jpgNew research published in the Journal of Biology suggests that many drugs used in chemotherapy treatments for cancer, including cisplatin, carmustine and cytarabine, could be responsible for neurological damage, and can possibly change the way the brain works, causing mild forgetfulness and brain fog - known as "chemobrain" - in some cancer survivors:

The drugs have been linked to such side effects as reduced cognitive function, seizures and loss of brain cells.

Dr. Mark Noble and colleagues of the University of Rochester found that the drugs killed neural stem cells and compromised neural stem cell division in experiments with mice.

They also destroyed oligodendrocytes, which produce myelin insulation that is critical for sending messages throughout the nervous system.

The mice in the study continued losing brain cells as long as six weeks following administration of the chemo drugs, the team reported.

In addition to the mouse experiments, the scientists tested neural cells and cancer cells from humans.

The chemo drugs were more destructive to the neural cells than to the cancer cells, they observed.

While they killed 40 percent to 80 percent of the cancer cells, they destroyed 70 percent to 100 percent of the human brain cells.

The study by no means indicates that women should avoid chemotherapy for breast cancer when they need it. Studies tend to revolve around breast cancer patients because they have a high survival rate after chemotherapy, but "chemobrain" may also affect other cancer survivors.

As noted in the article, in a separate study published in the journal Cancer, a team of researchers in Japan found that patients receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer experienced shrinkage of brain regions involved in memory and concentration, however, the effect was temporary. In any event, cancer patients shouldn't avoid chemotherapy because they are afraid of developing chemobrain, since not every patient will experience these symptoms. Besides, the study was too small to prove that chemotherapy actually causes forgetfulness.

Posted by Richard at December 6, 2006 10:28 PM

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