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'Toxicity map' of brain may help protect cognition for cancer patients
Date:3/20/2013

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. March 20, 2013 New research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is giving radiation oncologists who treat brain tumors a better understanding of how to preserve the brain's functions while still killing cancer.

Ann M. Peiffer, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology at Wake Forest Baptist, and colleagues looked at how radiation treatment to different brain areas impacts function to help protect cognition for patients during and after radiation therapy and beyond.

Radiation treatment of organs with cancer is designed to give enough of a dose to be toxic to the cancer tumor with minimal impact to the surrounding tissue and avoid normal tissue death. For treatment of organs like the lung, kidney or liver, doctors know exactly how much radiation to give before organ function is affected.

However, the same isn't true for brain tissue, so the researchers worked to develop a "toxicity map" of the brain to preserve function. Peiffer said this is the first attempt to relate treatment dose to brain function, as opposed to brain tissue death. While avoiding normal tissue death is important, it doesn't necessarily help prevent the cognitive and functional problems associated with cancer treatments.

"The issue is the toxicity to the brain and its function, which is cognition or how you think, and these functions are affected at a much lower dose of radiation than what causes tissue death," Peiffer said.

The toxicity map was created by taking advantage of data from larger clinical trials held at Wake Forest Baptist. In one of those trials, 57 brain cancer survivors returned six months or more after their radiation treatment to determine whether Donepezil, a drug normally used to improve mental function for those with early Alzheimer 's disease, was effective at improving their cognition. Participants completed cognitive testing upon enrollment, and their scores provided the performance data fo
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Contact: Bonnie Davis
bdavis@wakehealth.edu
336-716-4977
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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