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posted on 05.03.2018, 08:50 by Anna Kovalchuk, Yaroslav Ilnytskyy, Rocio Rodriguez-Juarez, Amanda Katz, David Sidransky, Bryan Kolb, Olga Kovalchuk

While the refinement of existing and the development of new chemotherapeutic regimens has significantly improved cancer treatment outcomes and patient survival, chemotherapy still causes many persistent side effects. Central nervous system (CNS) toxicity is of particular concern, as cancer patients experience significant deficits in memory, learning, cognition, and decision-making. These chemotherapy-induced cognitive changes are termed chemo brain, and manifest in more than half of cancer survivors. Moreover, recent studies have emerged suggesting that neurocognitive deficits manifest prior to cancer diagnosis and treatment, and thus may be associated with tumor presence, a phenomenon recently termed “tumor brain.” To dissect the molecular mechanisms of tumor brain, we used TumorGraftTM models, wherein part of a patient's tumor is grafted into immune-deficient mice. Here, we analyzed molecular changes in the hippocampal tissues of mice carrying triple negative (TNBC) or progesterone receptor positive (PR+BC) xenografts. TNBC growth led to increased oxidative damage, as detected by elevated levels of 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal, a product of lipid peroxidation. Furthermore, the growth of TNBC and PR+BC tumors altered global gene expression in the murine hippocampus and affected multiple pathways implicated in PI3K-Akt and MAPK signaling, as well as other pathways crucial for the proper functioning of hippocampal neurons. TNBC and PR+BC tumor growth also led to a significant decrease in the levels of neuronal transcription factor NPAS4, a regulator that governs the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and several other key brain neurotrophic factors and pro-survival molecules. The decreased expression of ERK1/2, NPAS4, and BDNF are also seen in neurodegenerative conditions and aging, and may constitute an important tumor brain mechanism.