Age-Dependent Cellular and Behavioral Deficits Induced by Molecularly Targeted Drugs Are Reversible

Cancer Res. 2018 Apr 15;78(8):2081-2095. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-17-2254. Epub 2018 Mar 20.


Newly developed targeted anticancer drugs inhibit signaling pathways commonly altered in adult and pediatric cancers. However, as these pathways are also essential for normal brain development, concerns have emerged of neurologic sequelae resulting specifically from their application in pediatric cancers. The neural substrates and age dependency of these drug-induced effects in vivo are unknown, and their long-term behavioral consequences have not been characterized. This study defines the age-dependent cellular and behavioral effects of these drugs on normally developing brains and determines their reversibility with post-drug intervention. Mice at different postnatal ages received short courses of molecularly targeted drugs in regimens analagous to clinical treatment. Analysis of rapidly developing brain structures important for sensorimotor and cognitive function showed that, while adult administration was without effect, earlier neonatal administration of targeted therapies attenuated white matter oligodendroglia and hippocampal neuronal development more profoundly than later administration, leading to long-lasting behavioral deficits. This functional impairment was reversed by rehabilitation with physical and cognitive enrichment. Our findings demonstrate age-dependent, reversible effects of these drugs on brain development, which are important considerations as treatment options expand for pediatric cancers.Significance: Targeted therapeutics elicit age-dependent long-term consequences on the developing brain that can be ameliorated with environmental enrichment. Cancer Res; 78(8); 2081-95. ©2018 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Gefitinib / pharmacology*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Oligodendroglia / drug effects*
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology*
  • Sunitinib / pharmacology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Gefitinib
  • Sunitinib
  • Sirolimus