Chemo Causes Brain Damage Now Its Official

Well, they have talked about this over and over, whether “chemo Brain” is real or not. Now we have proof, although we will have a wait until anyone does anything about this. I guess we should be glad we have part of our brains functioning. The article that covers this follows:

A commonly used chemotherapy drug causes healthy brain cells to die off
long after treatment has ended and may be one of the underlying
biological causes of the cognitive side effects — or “chemo brain” —
that many cancer patients experience. That is the conclusion of a study
published today in the Journal of Biology.

A team of researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center
(URMC) and Harvard Medical School have linked the widely used
chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) to a progressing collapse of
populations of stem cells and their progeny in the central nervous system.

“This study is the first model of a delayed degeneration syndrome that
involves a global disruption of the myelin-forming cells that are
essential for normal neuronal function,” said Mark Noble, Ph.D.,
director of the University of Rochester Stem Cell and Regenerative
Medicine Institute and senior author of the study. “Because of our
growing knowledge of stem cells and their biology, we can now begin to
understand and define the molecular mechanisms behind the cognitive
difficulties that linger and worsen in a significant number of cancer

Cancer patients have long complained of neurological side effects such
as short-term memory loss and, in extreme cases, seizures, vision loss,
and even dementia. Until very recently, these cognitive side effects
were often dismissed as the byproduct of fatigue, depression, and
anxiety related to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Now a growing body of
evidence has documented the scope of these conditions, collectively
referred to as chemo brain. And while it is increasingly acknowledged by
the scientific community that many chemotherapy agents may have a
negative impact on brain function in a subset of cancer patients, the
precise mechanisms that underlie this dysfunction have not been identified.

Virtually all cancer survivors experience short-term memory loss and
difficulty concentrating during and shortly after treatment. A study two
years ago by researchers with the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center at the
University of Rochester showed that upwards of 82 percent of breast
cancer patients reported that they suffer from some form of cognitive

While these effects tend to wear off over time, a subset of patients,
particularly those who have been administered high doses of
chemotherapy, begin to experience these cognitive side effects months or
longer after treatment has ceased and the drugs have long since departed
their systems. For example, a recent study estimates that somewhere
between 15 percent and 20 percent of the nation’s 2.4 million female
breast cancer survivors have lingering cognitive problems years after
treatment. Another study showed that 50 percent of women had not
recovered their previous level of cognitive function one year after

Two years ago, Noble and his team showed that three common chemotherapy
drugs used to treat a wide range of cancers were more toxic to healthy
brain cells than the cancer cells they were intended to treat. While
these experiments were among the first to establish a biological basis
for the acute onset of chemo brain, they did not explain the lingering
impact that many patients experience.

The scientists conducted a similar series of experiments in which they
exposed both individual cell populations and mice to doses of
5-fluorouracil (5-FU) in amounts comparable to those used in cancer
patients. 5-FU is among a class of drugs called antimetabolites that
block cell division and has been used in cancer treatment for more than
40 years. The drug, which is often administered in a “cocktail” with
other chemotherapy drugs, is currently used to treat breast, ovarian,
stomach, colon, pancreatic and other forms of cancer.

The researchers discovered that months after exposure, specific
populations of cells in the central nervous — oligodendrocytes and
dividing precursor cells from which they are generated — underwent such
extensive damage that, after six months, these cells had all but
disappeared in the mice.

Oligodendrocytes play an important role in the central nervous system
and are responsible for producing myelin, the fatty substance that, like
insulation on electrical wires, coats nerve cells and enables signals
between cells to be transmitted rapidly and efficiently. The myelin
membranes are constantly being turned over, and without a healthy
population of oligodendrocytes, the membranes cannot be renewed and
eventually break down, resulting in a disruption of normal impulse
transmission between nerve cells.

These findings parallel observations in studies of cancer survivors with
cognitive difficulties. MRI scans of these patients’ brains revealed a
condition similar to leukoencephalopathy . This demyelination — or the
loss of white matter — can be associated with multiple neurological

“It is clear that, in some patients, chemotherapy appears to trigger a
degenerative condition in the central nervous system,” said Noble.
“Because these treatments will clearly remain the standard of care for
many years to come, it is critical that we understand their precise
impact on the central nervous system, and then use this knowledge as the
basis for discovering means of preventing such side effects.”

Noble points out that not all cancer patients experience these cognitive
difficulties and determining why some patients are more vulnerable may
be an important step in developing new ways to prevent these side
effects. Because of this study, researchers now have a model which, for
the first time, allows scientists to begin to examine this condition in
a systematic manner.

Other investigators participating in the study include Ruolan Han,
Ph.D., Yin M. Yang, M.D., Anne Luebke, Ph.D., Margot Mayer-Proschel,
Ph.D., all with URMC, and Joerg Dietrich, M.D., Ph.D., formerly with
URMC and now with Harvard Medical School. The study was funded by the
National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the Komen
Foundation for the Cure, and the Wilmot Cancer Center.

For more media inquiries, contact:
Mark Michaud
(585) 273-4790
mark_michaud@ urmc.rochester. edu


Had a family reunion last week, that was wonderful. My brother John paid for me to go there, thank you John, and also donated a keyboard to me so that I could blogg in comfort. I had used my computer keyboard so much that several of the keys were missing and other keys were not working at all. Now I can type again, freedom! Southern California isn’t as nice as Northern California at all (especially the part of Northern California I live in) but the weather is nice and things are cheaper. Went to the Huntington Library, one of my parents favorite places, and the amount of flowers blooming was almost unbelievable. The Children’s and Chinese Gardens were my favorites. Then to Santa Monica Pier, which I liked a lot, I always loved amusement arcades, went on the mildest roller coaster on the coast but it gave great views of the pier and other amusements. The last time I went on an extreme coaster (at Six Flags) the ride was exciting to the max, but I spent most of the time with my eyes closed so it was nice to really experience this coaster.

Then back to Guerneville and off to the first meeting/event for KOWS programmers, we had pizza/pasta at the Union Hotel and baked in the heat while we got to know one another. The next day one of the programmers (Arnold) invited us to cricket and tea at a park in Sebastopol – that was a blast, had my first taste of gooseberry jam in years, plus the scones with double cream delicious (of course!) many of the Americans on having the rules of cricket explained to them, declared it silly or weird, but after they went to bat they changed their minds, sheesh even with that big bat its hard to hit the ball. A good time was had by all.

Anyway, things have been good for the past two weeks, only during this last week have I felt any pains, and only needed my meds once (yeah!). But I worry because I don’t understand the nature of cancer pain, I will have to ask my doctor again, they usually tell me it could be because the tumors are growing or it could be the tumors are dissolving. Well, dissolving sounds better to me. I want to see my medicine man again though because I believe in him and think he was the reason that the pains went away in the first place. My belly button is acting up again though, no pains, but its leaking greasy stuff and is a very raw red color. Its another two days until I go for chemo again, I really need to talk to my doctor about my skin. This chemo’s side effect is a skin rash, but my whole body has become rough and raw (in places), I hate touching my body as it doesn’t feel very human, my nose bleeds a lot and I’ve started bleeding out of an old hole in my ear lobe, where I used to wear earrings. Its better than throwing up all the time, but I am wondering if this isn’t too much.



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