Many breast cancer survivors experience fatigue and other debilitating symptoms that persist months to years after their course of treatment has ended.
Now researchers at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have found clues that may explain how these symptoms can linger. Chemotherapy, one of the major treatments for breast cancer, can leave a long-lasting epigenetic imprint in the DNA of breast cancer patients' blood cells. That imprint is associated with biological signs of inflammation up to six months after the completion of treatment. Inflammation in turn is believed to cause symptoms like fatigue.
The findings are now published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
"Chemotherapy is a life-saving intervention, but for some women it comes at a cost," says Mylin Torres, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute. "These results are the first to suggest a biological mechanism by which treatment-related side effects can persist long after treatment completion in women with breast cancer."
That achy, tired feeling that comes from the flu is caused by inflammation, the body's natural response to infection or a wound but it usually disappears once an illness is over. In patients being treated for cancer, fatigue has also been linked to inflammation and up to 30 percent of breast cancer survivors experience persistent fatigue long after treatment has ended.
To investigate the biology behind persistent cancer-related inflammation, Torres teamed up with Andrew Miller, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of psychiatric oncology at Winship Cancer Institute. First co-authors of the paper are Alicia Smith, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Karen Conneely, PhD, assistant professor of human genetics.
In a previously published study led by Torres and
|Contact: Quinn Eastman|
Emory Health Sciences