Susan G Komen  
I've Been Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Someone I Know Was Diagnosed Share Your Story Join Us And Stay Informed Donate To End Breast Cancer
    Home > Research & Grants > Grants Program > Research Grants > Research Grants Awarded > Abstract
    Awarded Grants
    Predicting Memory Problems in Breast Cancer Survivors

    Scientific Abstract:
    Kaemingk, K. POP0402906 Millions of breast cancer survivors have been treated with adjuvant chemotherapy. Millions more will receive chemotherapy in the next few years if current projections are correct. Unfortunately, there is evidence that chemotherapy adversely impacts memory function. Difficulties with memory function will impact the quality of life of affected survivors every day for the rest of their lives. Therefore, it is imperative that the reasons for memory difficulties be elucidated. The hippocampus, a structure in the medial temporal lobe of the brain, plays a critical role in memory function. We have preliminary data suggesting that hippocampal volumes are reduced in breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy and that hippocampal volumes in breast cancer survivors are positively related to memory function. Therefore, the goals of this prospective cross sectional study are to determine whether hippocampal volumes are reduced in breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy, whether reductions in hippocampal volume account for memory difficulties in breast cancer survivors, and whether hippocampal volume is specifically related to memory. Breast cancer survivors treated with local therapy and adjuvant chemotherapy will be compared to breast cancer survivors treated with local therapy alone. Brain volumes will be obtained using structural MRI. The ratio of hippocampal volume to whole brain volume will be the dependent variable as hippocampal volume is related to brain size. Memory and other cognitive functions will be assessed with standardized measures. We will test the following hypotheses: ·Hypothesis 1: Hippocampal ratios will be significantly reduced in the group of breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy. ·Hypothesis 2: a) There will be a significant positive relationship between the hippocampal ratio and performance on memory measures, b) the hippocampal ratio will account for a significant proportion of variance in performance on memory measures after age, education, socioeconomic status, depression, and other variables are taken into account, and c) treatment with adjuvant chemotherapy will account for a significant proportion of variance in the hippocampal ratio after other variables are taken into account. ·Hypothesis 3: While verbal function, visual perceptual skills, visual motor coordination, attention, and problem solving may differ between groups, performance on these measures will not be related to hippocampal ratios. We will utilize group comparisons, correlation techniques, and hierarchical regression to test study hypotheses and to control for other variables that could account for hypothesized outcomes. As clinicians we are growing ever more aware of the long term effects of chemotherapy on cognitive function—that for some, “chemo-brain” may not only be an acute phenomenon and that it isn’t “just depression.” As scientists we are committed to understanding the reasons for memory impairment in cancer survivors. We believe that our findings will provide support for a biological basis of memory difficulties and ultimately aid in the identification, treatment, and prevention of memory problems in breast cancer survivors.

    Lay Abstract:
    Kaemingk, K. POP0402906 One in 8 women in the United States develops breast cancer. Over 80% become survivors of this disease, and many of these women will have been treated with chemotherapy because this improves survival. However, there is accumulating evidence that chemotherapy adversely impacts memory. Barring significant changes in treatment, millions of breast cancer survivors will be treated with chemotherapy. Difficulties with memory will impact the quality of life of affected survivors every day for the rest of their lives. Thus, it is imperative that the reasons for memory difficulties be elucidated. We have data suggesting that chemotherapy may injure regions of the brain needed for memory, and we are committed to determining the underlying causes of memory difficulties in cancer survivors. The hippocampus, a structure in the temporal lobe of the brain, plays a critical role in memory function. Studies of groups with hippocampal injury and of groups with memory impairment have shown that reduced hippocampal volumes are related to memory difficulties. Our preliminary data suggest that hippocampal volumes are reduced in breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy. We also found that the size of the hippocampus was related to memory performance. Breast cancer survivors with smaller hippocampal volumes had poorer memory. Therefore, the goals of this project are to determine whether hippocampal volumes are reduced in breast cancer survivors treated with chemotherapy and whether reductions in hippocampal volume are specifically related to memory difficulties in breast cancer survivors. In our study, hippocampal size in a group of breast cancer survivors treated with local therapy and chemotherapy will be compared to hippocampal size in breast cancer survivors treated with local therapy alone. Participants will complete tests of memory and have a picture of their brain taken using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is a wonderful, safe, noninvasive technique that allows us to take detailed pictures of the brain and its structures. This way we can visualize and measure the hippocampus. If our hypotheses about the hippocampus and its relationship to memory are correct, hippocampal size will be reduced in the group treated with chemotherapy and hippocampal size will be predictive of performance on memory tests. As clinicians and scientists we are growing ever more aware of the long term effects of chemotherapy on cognitive function—that for some, “chemo-brain” may not only be an acute phenomenon and that it isn’t “just depression.” We believe that our findings will provide support for a biological basis of memory difficulties and ultimately aid in the identification, treatment, and prevention of memory problems in breast cancer survivors.