Subcortical brain iron deposition and cognitive performance in older women with breast cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy: A pilot MRI study
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As the number of older adults in the U.S. increases, so too will the incidence of cancer and cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI). However, the exact underlying biological mechanism for CRCI is not yet well understood. We utilized susceptibility-weighted imaging with quantitative susceptibility mapping, a non-invasive MRI-based technique, to assess longitudinal iron deposition in subcortical gray matter structures and evaluate its association with cognitive performance in women age 60+ with breast cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy and age-matched women without breast cancer as controls. Brain MRI scans and neurocognitive scores from the NIH Toolbox for Cognition were obtained before chemotherapy (time point 1) and within one month after the last infusion of chemotherapy for the patients and at matched intervals for the controls (time point 2). There were 14 patients age 60+ with breast cancer (mean age 66.3 ± 5.3 years) and 13 controls (mean age 68.2 ± 6.1 years) included in this study. Brain iron increased as age increased. There were no significant between- or within- group differences in neurocognitive scores or iron deposition at time point 1 or between time points 1 and 2 (p > 0.01). However, there was a negative correlation between iron in the globus pallidus and the fluid cognition composite scores in the control group at time point 1 (r = -0.71; p < 0.01), but not in the chemotherapy group. Baseline iron in the putamen was negatively associated with changes in the oral reading recognition scores in the control group (r = 0.74, p < 0.01), but not in the chemotherapy group. Brain iron assessment did not indicate cancer or chemotherapy related short-term differences, yet some associations with cognition were observed. Studies with larger samples and longer follow-up intervals are warranted.
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