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New potential therapy to prevent chemobrain

June 18, 2017

As healthcare providers caring for oncology patients, we are all too familiar with the physical effects of chemotherapy, including chemobrain. A University of Kansas researcher may have identified a possible therapy to prevent this side effect.

Michael Johnson, PhD, associate professor of chemistry at The University of Kansas, reports that in rat models, those affected by chemobrain experienced higher levels of brain hydrogen peroxide, and impaired dopamine and serotonin release and uptake.  “These are the first studies to our knowledge that look at what happens to neurotransmitter release events as a result of these chemotherapeutic agents,” Johnson said in a press release. “It hopefully will open up some options for treatments down the road.”

In a study published in Behavioural Brain Research, Johnson and his colleagues found that their compound KU-32, a novel, novobiocin-based Hsp90 inhibitor that protects against neuronal glucotoxicity, prevents chemotherapy-induced cognitive decline in rat models, by protecting cells with heat shock and potentially offering protection from the effects of elevated hydrogen peroxide brain exposure. Their analysis also revealed that in those rats who received carboplatin, there was a 42% and 55% decrease in dopamine and serotonin release, respectively, which they feel may contribute to chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment.

“Dopamine is found in many regions of the brain but is particularly abundant in the striatum,” said Johnson. “We felt that alterations in dopamine release due to chemo could potentially play a role in cognitive impairment. Serotonin is implicated in depression and cognitive function. It turns out that serotonin is impacted as well, so it’s likely that chemotherapy agents act on neurotransmitter systems other than dopamine as well and also play an important role.”

Chemobrain can be at times debilitating and this exciting new research is the first step in identifying a potentially preventative strategy which could offer patents protection from chemobrain.


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