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$1.4 million grant awarded to study 2 little-understood neurological disorders

NEW YORK (Dec. 17, 2007) -- The Leon Levy Foundation has awarded over $1.4 million in grants to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City in support of collaborative research into two little-understood neurological disorders: chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction in adult cancer patients and Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH), also known as "water on the brain," a progressive neurologic disorder in older adults that may be present in as many as 5 percent of dementia cases.

The three-year joint study on chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction will assess changes in brain structure, particularly in the hippocampus and the white matter, and cognitive functions in adult cancer patients treated with chemotherapy prior to receiving a stem-cell transplant.

"A significant number of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy experience changes in memory and other cognitive functions that interfere with their ability to lead a normal life. Yet despite the seriousness of the problem, little is known about it," says the study's principal investigator, Dr. Denise D. Correa, assistant professor of neuropsychology in Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College and a neuropsychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The collaborative study involving researchers from Weill Cornell, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and City University of New York (CUNY) will be the first to test the hypothesis that chemotherapy affects specific brain structures, particularly the hippocampus and white matter.

Dr. Correa hopes the research leads to efforts to identify "neuroprotective agents" that may minimize or prevent chemotherapy-related cognitive dysfunction.

A second three-year study will investigate techniques to improve detection of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH), a condition in which an excess of fluid compresses the brain, causing disturbances in gait, balance, control of urination and memory.

This investigation will be led by Dr. Norman Relkin, an authority in the diagnosis of the condition and author of international guidelines for the diagnosis of NPH. He is director of the Memory Disorders Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and associate professor of clinical neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College.

"NPH is treatable, but grossly under-recognized. Sadly, its symptoms are too often mistaken for Alzheimer's, Vascular Dementia or Parkinson's disease," explains Dr. Relkin. "There is currently no single method for objectively diagnosing NPH, and the available means of diagnosis involve a costly and time-consuming combination of clinical examinations, brain imaging and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage procedures. Furthermore, in published studies, the accuracy of this conventional approach is only about 50 percent in the hands of most physicians."

The three-year study will examine two techniques: Quantitative Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging (QDT-MRI) and Proteomic Analysis of Cerebrospinal Fluid (PA-CSF) -- approaches Dr. Relkin says "have shown excellent promise in our preliminary study and could revolutionize NPH diagnosis and management."

Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, says, "Leon was interested in the function of the human brain and its effects on behavior. He also had a very high regard for the work of Dr. Norman Relkin. This important research should advance our knowledge of these two perplexing neurological disorders. We have great confidence in the excellence of Dr. Relkin and Dr. Correa, and the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell neurological program, and are therefore pleased to support this critical effort."


Contact: Andrew Klein
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College

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