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Medical News & Perspectives
June 4, 2008

Studies Reveal Underlying Mechanism for Chemotherapy’s Adverse Effects on Brain

JAMA. 2008;299(21):2494. doi:10.1001/jama.299.21.2494

Advances in cancer chemotherapy have brought longer and more active lives for many patients but have left some with a mysterious and troubling burden. In some instances, the first sign may be subtle: a slow, almost imperceptible development of forgetfulness or loss of concentration. In other cases, patients experience a sudden onset of severe cognitive dysfunction many months after treatment has stopped.

Although some clinicians have been skeptical that such adverse effects—coined “chemobrain” by some—are associated with anticancer drugs, over the years others have been documenting the phenomenon. Now, researchers are beginning to understand how these effects arise and are hopeful that ongoing research will help to prevent them.