Nav: Home

NUS researchers identified new biomarkers associated with 'chemobrain'

April 23, 2019

Cognitive impairment associated with cancer, also known as "chemobrain", has gained recognition as a complication of the disease and its treatment, as it can negatively affect the daily lives of cancer patients and survivors.

Chemobrain can be subtle yet persistent, with some cancer patients reporting difficulties related to memory and attention even months after completing their treatment. This has affected patients' functional capabilities as they try to resume their previous roles.

Given the extent of impact from chemobrain on patients, it will be useful if patients who are at higher risk of developing such symptoms could be pre-emptively identified with the use of a standardised, quantitative biomarker. The appropriate precautions could be subsequently taken to mitigate the side effects and help to improve patients' quality of life in the long run.

With this in mind, a team led by Associate Professor Alexandre Chan from the Department of Pharmacy at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Science started to investigate levels of biomarkers in relation to chemobrain, to better understand its cause. "By identifying the clinically relevant factors which pre-dispose patients to chemobrain, more appropriate interventions can be tailored accordingly to patients who are at a higher risk of developing cognitive impairment," explained Assoc Prof Chan.

The team recently characterised plasma levels of the biomarker dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfated form (DHEAS) - jointly referred to as DHEA(S) - to be biological determinants of chemobrain. DHEA(S) are neurosteroids that help to regulate brain development, but it was previously unknown whether their levels correlate with cognitive function or are associated with the onset of chemobrain. This latest work was published in Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy on 20 March 2019.

Biomarkers linked with chemobrain

The study showed that early-stage breast cancer patients with higher plasma DHEAS levels prior to chemotherapy were found to have a lower risk of developing chemobrain in the specific domains of verbal fluency and mental acuity.

The researchers recruited 81 early-stage breast cancer patients who had no prior exposure to chemotherapy or radiotherapy and were scheduled to receive chemotherapy treatment with curative intent. This was a multicentre, prospective cohort study conducted in the National Cancer Centre Singapore and KK Women's and Children's Hospital between 2011 and 2016.

To assess the extent of chemobrain, patients completed assessments for self-perceived and objective cognitive function before, during, and after chemotherapy. The validated questionnaire assessed patients on individual subdomains of mental acuity, concentration, memory, verbal fluency, functional interference and multitasking. Conversely, the computerised neuropsychological test performed was used to assess for processing speed, response time, memory and attention of each patient. In addition, patients also completed a series of questionnaires to assess their fatigue symptoms, anxiety symptoms and health-related quality of life.

Plasma samples collected prior to chemotherapy were quantified for DHEA(S) levels. Mr Toh Yi Long, a doctoral student working with Assoc Prof Chan, and the first author of the study, said, "Our findings suggest that patients with higher prechemotherapy DHEAS levels had lower odds of developing self-perceived cognitive impairment. However, future studies are required to further investigate the effect of DHEA(S) on specific cognitive domains and to validate our findings in independent cohorts."

Better treatment of chemobrain in future

Assoc Prof Chan's team is now exploring new research frontiers and looking at developing potential therapeutic interventions. These interventions may provide viable options to mitigate post-treatment complications (not limited to chemobrain) that cancer patients are experiencing, with the overall goal to improve quality of life and to help restore normalcy in cancer survivors.
-end-


National University of Singapore

Related Cancer Articles:

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.
Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.