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M. D. Anderson Researchers to Study Quality of Life in Testicular Cancer Patients

M. D. Anderson Researchers to Study Quality of Life in Testicular Cancer Patients

Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have received funding to investigate the long-term effects of chemotherapy on men surviving testicular cancer.

“We’re looking for evidence of potential long-term problems in learning and memory that may result from the high-dose chemotherapy used to treat advanced cases of this disease,” says Dr. Ellen R. Gritz, psychologist and principal investigator of the study, entitled “Neurocognitive Function and Quality of Life After Testicular Cancer Treatment.” Dr. Gritz is chairperson of M. D. Anderson’s Department of Behavioral Science.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation is funding the 3-year $150,000 grant. Internationally known to the world of competitive bicycling, the 26-year-old Armstrong has returned to the sport following successful treatment for testicular cancer.

The study currently is open only to M. D. Anderson patients who are newly diagnosed with nonseminoma testicular cancer.

Focus on Effects of Therapy on Emotional and Cognitive Function

Because testicular cancer most often strikes men 10 to 34 years old, Dr. Gritz and colleagues will attempt to measure the long-term effects of treatment on indices of emotional and cognitive function. These issues are particularly important for the survivors’ occupational as well as social functioning because of the high long-term survival rates, in excess of 95%, for testicular cancer, Dr. Gritz says.

 “Part of this study involves looking at emotional adjustment issues and family relationships related to treatment with chemotherapy,” she says.

“One of our cancer prevention aims is understanding issues of lifestyle that can enhance survivorship,” says Dr. Bernard Levin, vice president for cancer prevention at M. D. Anderson. “This study further develops these efforts, namely, addressing quality-of-life issues in cancer patients and survivors, helping these individuals lead more fulfilling lives following a cancer diagnosis.”

Previous research with breast cancer patients has revealed cognitive deficits associated with high-dose chemotherapy regimens used to fight the disease. These long-term symptoms include memory loss, decreases in information-processing speed, reduced attention, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, says Dr. Christina Meyers, associate professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Neuro-Oncology.

“Because investigators in previous studies observed some of these cognitive deficits in breast cancer patients, we wondered if the same effects may occur in testicular cancer survivors receiving similar treatment, says Dr. Alice Sigurdson, a researcher in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Epidemiology.

If evidence of these conditions is found in testicular cancer survivors, researchers can institute interventions to help these patients, perhaps including rehabilitation exercises that strengthen learning and memory functions, Dr. Gritz says.

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