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Brain-boosting pill alleviates post-chemotherapy fogginess

A drug described by some people as a genius pill for enhancing cognitive function provided relief to a small group of Rochester breast cancer survivors who were coping with a side effect known as chemo-brain, according to a University of Rochester Medical Center study.

Sixty-eight women, who had completed treatment for breast cancer, participated in an eight-week clinical trial testing the effects of modafinil (Provigil). All women took the drug for the first four weeks. During the next month half of the women continued to receive the drug while the other half took an identical looking placebo pill. The women who took modafinil for all eight weeks reported major improvements in memory, concentration and learning.

I am very enthusiastic about the potential weve demonstrated, said Sadhna Kohli, Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and a research assistant professor at the University of Rochesters James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. 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 presents the research -- which is believed to be the first to examine the drugs use in breast cancer patients -- on June 3 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. ASCO is honoring Kohli with a Merit Award.

Originally licensed to treat narcolepsy, modafinil promotes wakefulness and seems to boost brainpower without causing the jittery, restless feelings induced by amphetamines. Modafinil is part of a class of drugs called eugeroics, which stimulate the brain only when it is required. The effects of modafinil disappear in about 12 hours. For this reason, sleep-deprived college students, athletes, soldiers or others who want to gain an edge in a competitive environment sometimes seek out the drug, calling it a genius pill.

The application for cancer care is unique and entirely appropriate, Kohli said. Although some in the scientific com
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Contact: Leslie Orr
Leslie_Orr@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-5774
University of Rochester Medical Center
3-Jun-2007


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