Cancer-related cognitive impairment, or CRCI, is common among certain cancer survivors, for example, individuals with breast cancer. CRCI usually presents as mild to moderate problems with memory and attention and can even persist long after cancer treatment has ended. Many have called this “chemobrain” or “chemofog” but research over the past three decades indicates that cancer itself, genetic vulnerabilities and treatments other than chemotherapy can lead to persistent CRCI.

Similar to patients treated with chemotherapy, patients with GIST are complaining about long-term side effects of Gleevec therapy with respect to cognitive function (“Gleevec brain”). Nevertheless, very little is known about CRCI in cancer patients who are being treated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), like Gleevec, including patients with GIST.

This discussion reviewed CRCI in general, and how a person who is being treated for GIST could be affected. We also talked about strategies that can help ameliorate CRCI and discuss our new research on CRCI and GIST. Finally, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we gave advice on how cancer survivors can best cope with and care for themselves during this unusual global health event.

About the Presenters:

Anette Duensing, M.D.
Professor of Pathology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Anette Duensing holds an M.D. degree from the University of Hannover School of Medicine, Germany, and is an Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as well as Member of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Her research focuses on gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) as well as other sarcomas with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic approaches. Recently, Dr. Duensing has teamed up with Dr. Robert Ferguson at UPMC HCC to study cognitive impairment in GIST patients treated with Gleevec and other tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Dr. Duensing is the author of nearly 70 original articles, reviews and book chapters. Her research has been supported by the American Cancer Society, the Sarcoma Foundation of America, the GIST Cancer Research Fund and the Life Raft Group.

Robert J. Ferguson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine with the Division of Hematology/Oncology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Hillman Cancer Center

Dr. Ferguson is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor of Medicine with the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Hillman Cancer Center. His clinical and research interests are the treatment of cognitive effects of cancer, cancer survivorship and palliative care. He is the author of numerous peer reviewed research articles and book chapters on treatment of cancer-related cognitive dysfunction and other topics related to the field of behavioral medicine. His research has been funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Disclaimer: Information provided in this webcast is not intended as a substitute for your physician’s guidance and care.