- Question from Bess: Do you know what areas of the brain are impacted by each drug and for how long? Are there studies that scan the brain before and after to see what changes and maybe tailor special stimulation exercises focused on specific area of the brain for improving/helping regeneration?
- Answers - Christina Meyers There have not been pre-treatment/post-treatment scans done so far because it's a very expensive study to do, but the pattern of neuropsychological studies shows an inefficiency of the frontal subcortical white matter. Just in the last year there are now a number of animal studies working on the effect of a variety of common chemotherapy agents on brain function in animals, so we are starting to understand some of the way these agents affect brain structure. Vascular effects, effects on the white matter are starting to be documented, so they are coming out and hopefully will help us understand the mechanism better and give us better ways to treat proactively.
- George Sledge, M.D. My colleague here at Indiana University, Dr. Andrew Saykin, who is a neuroimager, is actually in the process of neuroimaging studies in patients having chemotherapy. While he hasn't published anything yet, it's my experience that he's already seen some impressive neuroimaging changes in patients receiving chemotherapy.
- Christina Meyers The bottom line is there are real anatomical brain changes in some people, not all, but the relationship to functional problems has to be connected as well.
- George Sledge, M.D. One of the things that fascinates me, from a grant I am working on that looks at treatment of brain metastases in breast cancer, is how little we know about how agents penetrate the brain.
- Christina Meyers And there may be other ways to cross the blood/brain barrier. There are also agents that may induce secondary messengers: that is they induce other biochemicals that might then cross the blood/brain barrier. There may be hormonal and autoimmune reasons as well.
- George Sledge, M.D. This is still largely unexplored territory.
- Christina Meyers And we know not everyone has this. Some people will go through treatment with no problems at all, but a majority has mild problems related to how they functioned before. They could be due to a number of reasons.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Managing Chemo Brain featured Christina Meyers, Ph.D., A.B.P.P. and George Sledge, M.D. answering your questions about how long chemo brain can last, what treatments can be helpful, and current research on cognitive effects of breast cancer treatment.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in October 2008.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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