Over 1.8 million people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year. As cancer treatments improve, survivors are living longer. Many individuals living with cancer struggle with side effects after undergoing chemotherapy and even after their course of cancer treatments have been completed. Cancer treatments can cause peripheral neuropathy, when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body become damaged. Common side effects include fatigue, depression, anxiety and cognitive changes. Cancer treatment side effects may improve after time has passed but sometimes they can linger on for years and become chronic.
One side effect that can be debilitating for many patients is cancer treatment-related cognitive deficits, known as “chemo brain.” Chemo brain can affect a person’s memory, attention and concentration with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. This dramatically impacts every day home and work life. Unfortunately, there are no tools or tests to specifically diagnosis chemo brain. Therefore, individuals living with cancer may be frustrated by not understanding what is causing their cognitive decline or how to alleviate brain fog. A new lab at the Institute led by Dr. Marisa Cortese-Peske has set a path to discover innovative tests and tools aimed to diagnose cancer treatment-related cognitive deficits to take a huge step closer towards finding new avenues for cancer therapeutics and wellness approaches.