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'Genius pill' may alleviate post-chemo haze: study

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'Genius pill' may alleviate post-chemo haze: study

'Genius pill' may alleviate post-chemo haze: study

A drug touted as a "genius pill" could give breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy some relief from a side effect known as "chemo brain," according to new research.

The condition is a long-misunderstood and untreated side effect of chemotherapy in some patients.

The clinical trial involved the drug modafinil (Provigil), which was originally approved to treat narcolepsy. Sixty-eight women took part in the eight-week trial at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

"What we found is modafinil did improve fatigue and it did improve memory and attention skills," said Sadna Kohli of the centre.

"What this study is doing is giving some hope that there is a treatment and a validation of patient's complaints," said Dr. Barbara Collins of Ottawa Hospital.

The women took the drug for the first four weeks. Then, for another four weeks, half of the women continued to take the drug, while the other half were given a placebo.

The women who took modafinil for the full eight weeks reported major improvements in memory, concentration and learning. Many patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer complain of memory and attention problems as well as sluggishness.

Brenda Oathout is one of those who faced "chemo brain" after she began chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer six years ago.

"It was hard for me to be a mother and a wife and take care of my home," she said. "You forget phone numbers, you forget how to get to places. It's just ... you draw a blank, you simply draw a blank -- it's scary."

While they caution the results are preliminary and need to be tested on a larger population, researchers say they're excited about the finding.

"This is a novel drug and after completing the trial, many of the women wanted to know how they could continue to get modafinil," Kohli said.

Oathout is very positive about the drug: "It was instantaneous, the very first thing I noticed the fatigue was gone and then I noticed the struggle wasnt there."

Modafinil belongs to a class of drugs called eugeroics. It stimulates the brain, promotes wakefulness and boosts brainpower -- apparently without causing the jittery effects from amphetamines.

For this reason, the drug is sometimes sought out by sleep-deprived university students and others who want an edge in a competitive environment -- hence its nickname, the "genius pill."

Scientists have not yet discovered the exact cause of "chemo-brain"; and some in the scientific community doubt the condition actually exists. But many cancer patients report impairment in brain function after chemotherapy.

Kohli argues that using modafinil in cancer care is unique -- and entirely appropriate.

In a separate study last year, Kohli found that 82 per cent of 595 cancer patients reported problems with memory and concentration. And the deficits can lead to job loss or social dysfunction.

"We usually associate nausea, vomiting and hair loss as more common side effects, but this side effect is a great topic of conversation," Kohli said. "(Patients) can't describe it exactly, but they can't function as they did before."

A separate research group at the University of Rochester is investigating the toxicity of cancer-killing drugs on healthy brain cells. In 2006 they showed that chemotherapy disrupts cell division in the hippocampus, the brain region essential for learning and memory.

Some studies have tested Ritalin's effect on cancer patients. But Ritalin, which stimulates the central nervous system, can have side effects like headaches, irritability and addiction, said Kohli. Recent studies show since modafinil does not linger in the body, side effects are minimal, according to recent studies.

Kohli's research was funded by the National Cancer Institute and Cephalon Inc., the maker of modafinil.

Details of the study:

The women who participated in the study ranged in age from 33 to 83, with a median age of 54.
All participants took 200 milligrams of the drug for the first four weeks. During the second phase, women who had had a positive response to the drug were randomly selected to continue taking modafinil or a placebo.
The women who took modafinil for the entire eight weeks reported significant improvements in certain measures of memory, concentration and learning.

Post Mon 04 Jun, 2007 5:57 am 
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Joined: 22 Jun 2004
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This is so irritatating to me. How many deaths must we experience before the AMA leave us alone? Sheesh.. Did you notice they said not a thing about any side affects?

Let's just "Have A DRUG FREE America"! Sheesh, 5 years down the road, these women will drop dead, and then the FDA will ban the drug, then the big Pharma cartel will either change the name and bring it back, or will pay the FDA to put it back on the market again.

Yup, that's the way the wind blows...

"What goes around, comes around" When it does, watch out!!!

Post Fri 08 Jun, 2007 4:12 pm 
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