A new study in the March 17 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology says that a drug that is used to treat Alzheimer's disease is also useful in improving cognitive function, mood and quality of life in brain tumor patients after they undergo radiation therapy.
Researchers at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center found that brain tumor patients who were treated for six months with donepezil (trade name: Aricept), showed a marked improvement in mental function and well as their symptoms. "Each year more than 15,000 Americans are diagnosed with a primary brain tumors, and as many as 200,000 with metastatic brain tumors, nearly all of whom receive radiation therapy," said Edward G. Shaw, M.D. "For survivors of brain tumor radiation, symptoms of short-term memory loss and mood changes similar to those seen in Alzheimer's disease, as well as fatigue, frequently occur, leading to a poor quality of life." Stephen R. Rapp, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine and senior author on the paper said that donepezil, which belongs to a class of drugs called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, "has demonstrated efficacy in mild to severe Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. The results of this initial study encourage continued investigation of donepezil and other AChE inhibitors." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also approved the drug for this use. The researchers decided to go in for trying the drug since many of the symptoms after radiation for brain tumor resembled Alzheimer's disease. "Additional research is needed to further evaluate donepezil and other AChE inhibitors in this population." Rapp said. The drug increases the acetylcholine level in the brain, thus compensating for the loss of this chemical after radiation.
Other authors include Robin Rosdhal, R.N., O.C.N., and Mike E. Robbins, Ph.D., both from radiation oncology, and Ralph B. D'Agostino Jr., Ph.D., James Lovato, M.S. and Michelle J. Naughton, Ph.D., all from public health sciences.
Contact: Robert Conn
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center