Chemo Brain Characterized

Cancer patients and survivors have long reported a phenomenon called “chemo brain”—a constellation of cognitive deficits experienced following cancer and cancer treatment. Now researchers are studying the phenomenon, which they refer to as cancer-related cognitive impairment. A paper published Sept. 21 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology​ describes the experiences of 580 breast cancer patients. The patients in the study had non-metastatic disease and received chemotherapy as treatment. Over the course of the study, which started prior to chemotherapy and ended six months after chemotherapy ended, the patients’ performance on cognitive tests—assessing memory, attention and executive function—declined compared to the performance of control participants without cancer.

Lung Cancer Trial​ Results

This week, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer held its annual World Conference on Lung Cancer in Toronto. A variety of trials shed light on the efficacy of treatments. Results presented on the checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi (durvalumab) indicated that the drug lengthened life​ for patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that was not removable by surgery. Other trials investigated which targeted therapy to use as initial treatment in patients with advanced NSCLC and certain tumor mutations. In patients with ALK mutations, a trial​ showed that those receiving initial treatment with Alunbrig (brigatinib) went longer without their cancers progressing than those given Xalkori (crizotinib). Other trials showed signs that NSCLC patients with ROS1 mutations might fare better with the investigational drug entrectinib than Xalkori.

The Geography of Cancer

Worldwide, 5.9 people per 100,000 develop esophageal cancer. In East Africa, the rate is 9.7 people per 100,000, and it rises as high as 18 people per 100,000 in Kenya and 24 people per 100,000 in Malawi. A feature published Sept. 25 in Mosaic describes scientists’ efforts to understand why cancer rates are not uniform worldwide. Researchers are gathering tumor sequences to analyze their pattern of mutations. The types of mutations tumors have could inform scientists which factors—from viral infection to smoking to pollution—may have caused them.

Treating High-Risk Prostate Cancer

For a study published Sept. 25 in Cancer, researchers compared two options for treating locally advanced, high-risk prostate cancer. Looking at data on U.S. Medicare patients’ treatment, they found that patients who had their prostates removed and had radiation therapy lived longer than those who did not have surgery and had radiation and hormone-blocking therapy. However, receiving surgery and radiation therapy was associated with higher risk of erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.

FDA Approves New Blood Cancer Therapy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 24 approved​ Copiktra (duvelisib) for certain patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, small lymphocytic lymphoma and follicular lymphoma. The drug is approved for patients who have received at least two prior therapies. It is an inhibitor of two versions of a type of enzyme called PI3K, which is part of a signaling pathway that is often altered in cancer cells.​