Chemotherapy, the treatment of cancer using chemotherapeutic agents such as cytotoxic antineoplastic drugs, is one of the primary treatments for cancer - but it has drawbacks. Some of the most disturbing findings of recent studies of cancer survivors is the apparent prevalence of chemotherapy-associated adverse neurological effects, including vascular complications, seizures, mood disorders, cognitive dysfunctions, and peripheral neuropathies.
In addition, chemotherapy triggers changes in ion channels on dorsal root ganglia and dorsal horn neurons that generate secondary changes resulting in neuropathic pains.
Although a number of protective agents have been developed, their effects are not quite satisfactory. Chemotherapy drugs are also implicated in changes in hippocampal neurogenesis and plasticity.
A new review published in the open access journal Neural Regeneration Research (Vol. 8, No. 17, 2013 - not yet online) focuses on chemotherapy-induced neurodegeneration and hippocampal dysfunctions and related mechanisms as measured by in vivo and in vitro approaches, which is helpful in determining how best to further explore the causal mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced neurological side effects and in providing direction for the future development of novel optimized chemotherapeutic agents.
Meanwhile, another paper presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference found that people who get cancer are less likely to get Alzheimer's disease - and those treated with chemotherapy have a significantly reduced risk. The researchers from the VA Boston Healthcare System found that survivors of liver cancer had the most protection, with 51 percent reduced risk, while cancer of the pancreas had a 44 percent reduced risk, esophagus a 33 percent reduced risk, leukemia was 31 percent less, lung cancer 25 percent less and kidneys 22 percent. It's still too soon to tell if chemotherapy is an Alzheimer's treatment.