Among the many unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy treatment, researchers have just confirmed another: chemo brain. The term refers to the mental fog that chemotherapy patients report feeling during and after treatment. According to Jame Abraham, a professor at West Virginia University, about a quarter of patients undergoing chemotherapy have trouble focusing, processing numbers, and using short-term memory.
The nanoparticle. ACUPA is a protein that helps the particle attach to cancer
cells; the red and blue pieces are polymers that make up the particle’s shell.
One of the persistent problems in cancer treatments is that try as we might, it’s hard to get drugs to attack just tumors: they nearly always attack patients’ healthy cells too. Finding ways to get drugs to kill tumors, and tumors alone, is a major area of research, and a recent trial in Science Translational Medicine indicates that one promising strategy, encasing the drug in a tiny particle that dissolves when it reaches a tumor, works better than just using the drug alone.
Chemotherapy is poison that happens to kill cancer cells faster than it kills healthy cells; that it wreaks havoc on the bodies of patients is unsurprising. But chemo may also affect their unborn children. According to a new study in PNAS, the offspring of mice treated with chemotherapy have higher rates of mutation, even though the offspring themselves were never exposed to the drugs.
The results suggest that these mutations arise from genome destabilization caused by exposure to chemo, rather than just mutated sperm from the treated father. Male mice in the study were exposed to one of three common anticancer drugs—cyclophosphamide, mitomycin C, or procarbazine—and then allowed to mate with untreated females. After sequencing a small piece of DNA from the offspring, the researchers found that mice with treated fathers had mutation rates up to twice that of mice with untreated fathers. Notably, these mutations were present in DNA inherited from both the treated father and untreated mother.