A Possible Treatment for Chemo Brain

The breast-cancer drug tamoxifen really does cause mental fogginess in patients, a new study has found.

But the researchers also report they’ve discovered an existing drug compound that appears to counteract or rescue brain cells from tamoxifen’s adverse effects.

“As far as I know, no one else has discovered an agent that singles out and protects brain and central nervous system cells while also not protecting cancer cells,” said corresponding author Mark Noble, Ph.D., of the University of Rochester. “This...[is] where we need to go.”

In earlier studies, Noble and his colleagues examined a similar effect resulting from other anti-cancer drugs. Specifically, 5-fluorouracil, (cisplatin, cytarabine, carmustine), and multiple other types of chemotherapy, led to cognitive difficulties. This is commonly known as “chemo brain.”

Noble said the findings represented a leap forward. “It’s critical to find safe treatments that can rescue the brain from impairment,” Noble said, “because despite increasing awareness and research in this area, some people continue to endure short-term memory loss, mental cloudiness, and trouble concentrating. For some patients the effects wear off over time, but others experience symptoms that can lead to job loss, depression, and other debilitating events.”

Noble’s lab, led by post-doctoral fellow Hsing-Yu Chen, Ph.D., identified 27 drugs that protected he effects of tamoxifen.  Further testing resulted in singling out AZD6244, by other laboratories as a potential cancer therapy.

Meanwhile, several national clinical trials are testing the safety and effectiveness of AZD6244 in treating multiple cancers, from breast and colon to melanoma and lung.

The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.


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