Effects of Certain Chemotherapies on Cognitive Function in Breast Cancer Survivors

When most of us here cancer we probably immediately think of the cure or possible treatments that someone may receive to fight it. Few of us however would immediately wonder what side effects may be involved in the long-term after being treated and cured of cancer. The idea of cancer also seems as though it is completely associated with a loss of quality of life, but what if cancer treatments were also associated with this same drop in quality of life?

To observe the effects of a specific chemotherapy drug on breast cancer survivors compared to a different treatment or no chemotherapy at all, a study examined the cognitive function of 62 breast cancer survivors that had been off therapy for about two years. All women involved had been enrolled at Stanford University between 2008 and 2014. Twenty of the women had received anthracycline-based chemotherapy, the type of chemotherapy being specifically examined for its reputation in decreasing cognitive function post-therapy. Nineteen women had received nonanthracycline therapy and the final twenty-three women did not receive chemotherapy at all. Standardized neurological tests and resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging on the brain were completed. Results found that the women receiving anthracycline-based treatment had significantly lower verbal memory. Both groups of women that had received chemotherapy of some sort self-reported psychological distress and cognitive dysfunction. The journal article concluded that more research needs to be done on how the brain can be protected during chemotherapy treatments.

It is unnerving to think the few treatments we have for cancer may be causing more anguish to these women after they have been ‘treated’. Considering the women that did not receive any type of chemotherapy seemed to have no cognitive or psychological problems, should a more natural approach to cancer treatment be more heavily considered?

Reference: Kesler SR, Blayney DW. Neurotoxic effects of anthracycline- vs nonanthracycline-based chemotherapy on cognition in breast cancer survivors. Jama Oncol. 2016; 2(2): 185-192. http://oncology.jamanetwork.com.pitt.idm.oclc.org/article.aspx?articleid=2473507

High sucrose diet linked to increased risk in breast cancer

Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have been studying how dietary sugar effects enzymatic signaling of the 12-LOX (12-lipooxygenase) pathway. The researchers found that mice who had sucrose intake similar to those found in Western diets lead to an increased risk of tumor development and metastasis. Specifically, they studied the impact of how sucrose influenced mammary gland tumor development in several mouse models.

This is the first study to investigate the direct effect of sugar consumption and how it relates to the development of breast cancer. The researchers believe that the mechanism by which the sugar effects tumor growth, the 12-LOX pathway, needs to be further studied.

I think this article is very interesting because I had never even thought of dietary sugar levels leading to cancer development. This is important as a pharmacist because we can make recommendations to patients to eat healthier or refer them to a dietician. If this data holds true in humans, it will be another great counseling point to make in order for our patients to eat less unnecessary sugar to improve overall health. My questions for the class are: Have you ever thought that excess dietary sugar could lead to cancer development? And, if the data translated to humans, do you think people would change their diet if they knew this information?



Yan Jiang, Yong Pan, Patrea R. Rhea, Lin Tan, Mihai Gagea, Lorenzo Cohen, Susan M. Fischer, and Peiying Yang. A Sucrose-Enriched Diet Promotes Tumorigenesis in Mammary Gland in Part through the 12-Lipoxygenase PathwayCancer Res, January 1, 2016 76:24-29 DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-3432