Chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment in patients with breast cancer based on MRS and DTI analysis


The purpose of this study is to investigate chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment (CRCI) in breast cancer patients, analyze absolute concentration and structural changes of metabolites in different brain regions by multimodal neuroimaging technology, and explore correlation between them. Breast cancer patients with chemotherapy treatment group (Ctx+, N = 24) and control group without treatment (Ctx–, N = 20) underwent neuropsychological tests, multivoxel magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) before and after chemotherapy. Regions of interest (ROls) in magnetic resonance scan include bilateral posterior cingulate gyrus (PCG), bilateral dorsal thalamus (DT), bilateral lenticular nucleus (LN), bilateral posterior horn of the lateral ventricle paratrigonal white matter (PWM). In MRS, absolute concentrations of N-acetylaspartate (NAA), myo-inositol (MI), choline-containing compounds (Cho), total creatine (tCr), glutamine + glutamate (Glx) were quantified using LC Model and SAGE software. In DTI, we used fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) to reflect white matter integrity. In Ctx+ patients, scores of functional assessment of cancer treatment cognition test (FACT-Cog), perceived cognitive impairments (PCI), impact of perceived impairments on quality of life (QOL), perceived cognitive abilities (PCA), auditory-verbal learning test (AVLT) recognition and clock drawing test (CDT) were lower than those before chemotherapy (p < 0.05). In MRS, Ctx+ patients had significantly lower NAA values in bilateral PCG, DT, respectively. The concentrations of tCr were observed to decline in bilateral PCG and right DT. Glx values decreased in right DT. Cho values decreased significantly in bilateral DT. In DTI, Ctx+ patients had lower FA values in bilateral PCG compared with patients before chemotherapy. Among imaging metrics and cognitive scores, positive correlations were observed between changes in AVLT recognition scores and changes in NAA values in bilateral PCG (left PCG: r = 0.470, p < 0.01; right PCG: r = 0.500, p < 0.01). Positive correlations were also found between changes in AVLT recognition and changes in FA values in bilateral PCG (left PCG: r = 0.513, p < 0.01; right PCG: r = 0.563, p < 0.01). Chemotherapy can lead to a decrease in memory function, accompanied by changes in brain metabolite concentration and white matter integrity in some parts of brain.

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Correspondence to Xing Chu.

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Tong, T., Lu, H., Zong, J. et al. Chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment in patients with breast cancer based on MRS and DTI analysis. Breast Cancer 27, 893–902 (2020).

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  • Breast cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cognitive impairment
  • MRS
  • DTI