Cognitive decline is among the most feared treatment-related outcomes of older adults with cancer. The majority of older patients with breast cancer self-report cognitive problems during and after chemotherapy. Prior neuroimaging research has been performed mostly in younger patients with cancer. The purpose of this study was to evaluate longitudinal changes in brain volumes and cognition in older women with breast cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy.
Women aged ≥ 60 years with stage I–III breast cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy and age-matched and sex-matched healthy controls were enrolled. All participants underwent neuropsychological testing with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox for Cognition and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) prior to chemotherapy, and again around one month after the last infusion of chemotherapy. Brain volumes were measured using Neuroreader™ software. Longitudinal changes in brain volumes and neuropsychological scores were analyzed utilizing linear mixed models.
A total of 16 patients with breast cancer (mean age 67.0, SD 5.39 years) and 14 age-matched and sex-matched healthy controls (mean age 67.8, SD 5.24 years) were included: 7 patients received docetaxel and cyclophosphamide (TC) and 9 received chemotherapy regimens other than TC (non-TC). There were no significant differences in segmented brain volumes between the healthy control group and the chemotherapy group pre-chemotherapy (p > 0.05). Exploratory hypothesis generating analyses focusing on the effect of the chemotherapy regimen demonstrated that the TC group had greater volume reduction in the temporal lobe (change = − 0.26) compared to the non-TC group (change = 0.04, p for interaction = 0.02) and healthy controls (change = 0.08, p for interaction = 0.004). Similarly, the TC group had a decrease in oral reading recognition scores (change = − 6.94) compared to the non-TC group (change = − 1.21, p for interaction = 0.07) and healthy controls (change = 0.09, p for interaction = 0.02).
There were no significant differences in segmented brain volumes between the healthy control group and the chemotherapy group; however, exploratory analyses demonstrated a reduction in both temporal lobe volume and oral reading recognition scores among patients on the TC regimen. These results suggest that different chemotherapy regimens may have differential effects on brain volume and cognition. Future, larger studies focusing on older adults with cancer on different treatment regimens are needed to confirm these findings.
ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01992432. Registered on 25 November 2013. Retrospectively registered.