Neuropathological Effects of Chemotherapeutic Drugs

Alan Umfress, Haley E Speed, Chunfeng Tan, Saleh Ramezani, Shari Birnbaum, Rolf A. Brekken, Xiankai Sun, Florian Plattner, Craig M. Powell, James A. Bibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Novel treatments, screening, and detection methods have prolonged the lives of numerous cancer patients worldwide. Unfortunately, existing and many promising new chemotherapeutics can cause deleterious, off-target side effects in normal tissue and organ systems. The central and peripheral nervous systems are widely recognized as frequent off-target effectors of anticancer drugs which can produce persistent neurological and neuropsychiatric symptoms collectively termed "chemobrain". Following chemotherapy, patients report several forms of cognitive impairment occurring acutely and sometimes persisting years after treatment. There are no effective treatments for cognitive decline induced by chemotherapeutics, and the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly characterized and understood. In this study, we find that chronic treatment with two common chemotherapeutic agents, cisplatin and gemcitabine, impairs brain region-specific metabolism, hippocampus-dependent memory formation, and stress response behavior. This corresponds to reduced hippocampal synaptic excitability, altered neuronal signal transduction, and neuroinflammation. These findings underline that a better understanding of the basic pathological consequences of chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment is the first step toward improving cancer treatment survivorship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3038-3048
Number of pages11
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 18 2021


  • Chemobrain
  • chemotherapy
  • cisplatin
  • cognition
  • gemcitabine
  • neuroinflammation
  • plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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