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Chemo drugs cause cognitive decline in breast cancer patients

Chemobrain is a condition of cognitive decline experienced by several cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. This was confirmed by a recent study conducted on the // effect of chemotherapy on cognitive functions in mice.

Dr. Gordon Winocur of the Baycrest Research Centre for Aging and the Brain carried out the analysis at Trent University in association with Drs. Ian Tannock and Janette Vardy of Princess Margaret Hospital.

The study was published in the September 2006 issue of Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior (Vol. 85, Issue 1) and will be available online next week. The findings were presented at a workshop held in combination with the 8th World Congress of Psycho-Oncology in Venice last week.

"In our study, we identified learning and memory deficits in the mild to moderate range in the drug-treated mice compared to the controls," says Dr. Winocur. "That the deficits were relatively small is encouraging. It's important that cancer patients continue with these drugs and know that if they experience mild to moderate impairments in their cognitive functions, this level of change is potentially manageable."

While there is growing evidence from studies of cancer patients on chemotherapy that the chemobrain effect does exist, many of the studies have suffered from methodological limitations. These include small samples, less than adequate controls and failure to account for other factors, including disease-related complications and stress, which could affect performance.

This latest study, using an animal model, afforded researchers the opportunity to look at the direct effects of chemotherapy drugs on cognitive performance without interference from potentially confounding variables.

In the study, 25 healthy female mice were split into two groups: the drug treatment group received standard doses of methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil (5FU), two drugs widely used in women to prevent recurrence of breast ca
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