UNC School of Medicine researchers have found for the first time a biochemical mechanism that could be a cause of “chemo brain” – the neurological side effects such as memory loss, confusion, difficulty thinking, and trouble concentrating that many cancer patients experience while on chemotherapy to treat tumors in other parts of the body
The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows how the common chemotherapy drug topotecan can drastically suppress the expression of Topoisomerase-1, a gene that triggers the creation of proteins essential for normal brain function. Specifically, the drug tamps down the proteins that are necessary for neurons to communicate through synapses. However, the researchers found that the protein levels and synaptic communication return to normal when the drug is removed.
“There’s still a question in the cancer field about the degree to which some chemotherapies get into the brain,” said Mark Zylka, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology and co-senior author of the PNAS paper. “But in our experiments, we show that if they do get in, they can have a dramatic effect on synaptic function. We think drug developers should be aware of this when testing their next generation of topoisomerase inhibitors.”
Read more at UNC Health Care.
Published Dec. 3, 2014