Cognitive impairment is a common side-effect of chemotherapy that can persist well after the completion of treatment. The thinking and memory problems commonly referred to as ‘chemo-brain’ or ‘chemo-fog’ have a significant impact on quality of life, adversely influencing daily activities, work performance and interpersonal relationships. Currently, it is unclear what causes or contributes to the problems they report. We aim to examine mechanistic pathways, including (i) indirect neurotoxic effects on brain structure (e.g. white matter damage); (ii) inflammatory reactions triggering elevated levels of neurotoxic cytokines; and (iii) stress. In addition, we will develop a novel multidisciplinary training program to alleviate symptoms in cancer patients. Furthermore, we will investigate the biological correlates of the cognitive changes observed in patients by means of an animal model of chemobrain with a similar long-term multimodal training protocol. Our findings may ultimately lead to the identification of biomarkers that provide invaluable information on the mechanisms through which training can alleviate chemobrain symptoms in cancer survivors.
Li M, Caeyenberghs K. (2018) Longitudinal assessment of chemotherapy-induced changes in brain and cognitive functioning: A systematic review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 92:304-317. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.05.019. Review.