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Clearing the 'fog'
Date:1/15/2009

Many of the side effects from chemotherapy are well documented: Fatigue, nausea and hair and weight loss. But there is another one that has split the medical community about whether is even exists. It's called chemotherapy-induced cognitive deficits or "chemo fog" and pharmacologist Ellen Walker hopes her research not only proves its real, but finds the cause.

Walker, a PhD and associate professor of pharmacodynamics at the School of Pharmacy, received a $1.5 million dollar National Institutes of Health grant at the beginning of this year to study the possible effects of drugs used during chemotherapy on cognitive impairment. It's a big grant, with perhaps even bigger implications for how researchers and patients deal with chemotherapy-induced cognitive deficits, which chemotherapy patients liken to being in a fog, as if they're brain isn't working right. Misplaced items, inability to multi-task, short-term memory loss are hallmarks of the condition. And while there is clinical evidence to support its existence, research studies on the topic are scant.

"My colleague Bob Raffa and I were stunned at the lack of published literature, considering cancer patients have been getting chemotherapy for nearly 50 years," said Walker. "Most studies have looked at how well chemotherapeutic agents kill the tumor, not if they cause a cognitive deficiency, like memory loss."

Walker and Raffa decided to fill that void. Two years ago, Walker and PharmD student John Foley, set out to see if certain chemotherapeutic agents caused memory and learning deficits in mice. They tested two older drugs commonly used to treat breast cancer, a cancer with recently higher survival rates whose survivors have dominated the limited clinical research on chemotherapy-induced cognitive deficits. They suspected the drugs, methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil, weren't toxic alone, but when given together, could cause deficits. Six months into their research, their hunch
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Contact: Megan Chiplock
chiplock@temple.edu
215-707-1731
Temple University
Source:Eurekalert  

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