A pilot study involving 22 breast cancer patients currently receiving chemotherapy (mean age 54), has found that those with higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers did significantly worse on tests for short-term visual memory. One particular biomarker — tumor necrosis factor-alpha (as reflected through its two soluble receptors, TNFRI and TNFRII) — was the strongest indicator of cognitive problems.
The findings are consistent with an earlier study involving 174 breast cancer patients evaluated before chemotherapy, which found that higher levels of those biomarkers were associated with worse memory, and another study of 49 patients, which found that higher levels of sTNFRII were associated with more memory complaints after chemotherapy.
Cognition was assessed using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), looking at those domains previously reported to be affected in cancer survivors: visual memory, executive functioning, attention, verbal memory, and cognitive processing.
Almost all the patients were Caucasian and college-educated.