Breast cancer patients at Rutgers Cancer Institute are actively being referred to an ongoing clinical trial that seeks to understand the effects of hormonal therapy and chemotherapy on the brain – manifestations dubbed informally as “Chemo Brain”. The study is being conducted by the Kessler Foundation together with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Oftentimes, when breast cancer patients go through any or both of these forms of treatment, they develop side effects that can make concentrating, remembering, and tasks that require intensive hand movement unusually difficult. While these are not life-threatening, they can seriously affect patients’ quality of life. The study is attempting to understand these effects, thought to be caused by cancer medication, by examining neurologic changes within breast cancer patients’ brains.
Dr. Serena Wong, a medical oncologist at the Cancer Institute and an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, serves as the study’s referring physician and leads the screening process for willing participants in the study. “The brain typically recovers from these cognitive side effects over time, but subtle changes can sometimes persist for years. This study will enable investigators to better understand the relationship between cancer treatments and brain function. Our goal is to find ways to minimize or even prevent the effects of ‘chemo brain,’ thus helping to improve the patient’s quality of life,” she said in a news release.
Patients who pass the screening process will be asked to complete 2 to 3 appointments, 4 to 6 months apart during their prescribed course of either chemotherapy or hormone therapy. During these appointments, the patients will undergo MRIs of their brain, a brief series of tests with a painless magnetic pulse, designed to evaluate neurologic health, and will have their brain activity measured during certain tasks.
Patient criteria are as follows: females aged 50 to 70 years old, post-menopausal, right-handed, and have undergone or are scheduled to undergo surgery, chemotherapy or hormone therapy for their breast cancer. The clinical trial also welcomes healthy volunteers to comprise the control group.
Those who wish to learn more about the clinical trial on “Chemo Brain” may contact the researchers by dialling 800-248-3221 extension 3525, or e-mailing [email protected].