Multimodal MRI and cognitive function in patients with breast cancer prior to adjuvant treatment - The role of fatigue

Sanne Menning, Michiel B. de Ruiter, Dick J. Veltman, V. Koppelmans, Clemens Kirschbaum, Willem Boogerd, Liesbeth Reneman, Sanne B. Schagen

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An increasing body of literature indicates that chemotherapy (ChT) for breast cancer (BC) is associated with adverse effects on the brain. Recent research suggests that cognitive and brain function in patients with BC may already be compromised before the start of chemotherapy. This is the first study combining neuropsychological testing, patient-reported outcomes, and multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine pretreatment cognition and various aspects of brain function and structure in a large sample. Thirty-two patients with BC scheduled to receive ChT (pre-ChT+), 33 patients with BC not indicated to undergo ChT (pre-ChT-), and 38 no-cancer controls (NCs) were included. The examination consisted of a neuropsychological test battery, self-reported aspects of psychosocial functioning, and multimodal MRI. Patients with BC reported worse scores on several aspects of quality of life, such as higher levels of fatigue and stress. However, cortisol levels were not elevated in the patient groups compared to the control group. Overall cognitive performance was lower in the pre-ChT+ and the pre-ChT- groups compared to NC. Further, patients demonstrated prefrontal hyperactivation with increasing task difficulty on a planning task compared to NC, but not during a memory task. White matter integrity was lower in both patient groups. No differences in regional brain volume and brain metabolites were found. The cognitive and imaging data converged to show that symptoms of fatigue were associated with the observed abnormalities; the observed differences were no longer significant when fatigue was accounted for. This study suggests that cancer-related psychological or biological processes may adversely impact cognitive functioning and associated aspects of brain structure and function before the start of adjuvant treatment. Our findings stress the importance to further explore the processes underlying the expression of fatigue and to study whether it has a contributory role in subsequent treatment-related cognitive decline. (C) 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-554
JournalNeuroImage. Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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