Purpose: To explore the relationship of regional cerebral blood flow and metabolism with cognitive function and past exposure to chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Patients and methods: Subjects treated for breast cancer with adjuvant chemotherapy remotely (5-10 years previously) were studied with neuropsychologic testing and positron emission tomography (PET), and were compared with control subjects who had never received chemotherapy. [O-15] water PET scans was acquired during performance of control and memory-related tasks to evaluate cognition-related cerebral blood flow, and [F-18] fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET scans were acquired to evaluate resting cerebral metabolism. PET scans were analyzed by statistical parametric mapping and region of interest methods of analysis.
Results: During performance of a short-term recall task, modulation of cerebral blood flow in specific regions of frontal cortex and cerebellum was significantly altered in chemotherapy-treated subjects. Cerebral activation in chemotherapy-treated subjects differed most significantly from untreated subjects in inferior frontal gyrus, and resting metabolism in this area correlated with performance on a short-term memory task previously found to be particularly impaired in chemotherapy-treated subjects. In examining drug-class specific effects, metabolism of the basal ganglia was significantly decreased in tamoxifen + chemotherapy-treated patients compared with chemotherapy-only breast cancer subjects or with subjects who had not received chemotherapy, while chemotherapy alone was not associated with decreased basal ganglia activity relative to untreated subjects.
Conclusion: Specific alterations in activity of frontal cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia in breast cancer survivors were documented by functional neuroimaging 5-10 years after completion of chemotherapy.