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Drug helps cognitive function in brain tumor patients after radiation

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A drug that is marketed to treat Alzheimer's disease also improves cognitive function, mood and quality of life in brain tumor patients following radiation therapy, according to a research team at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

After the patients were treated for six months with donepezil (trade name: Aricept), there was a significant improvement in their symptoms, the researchers reported in the March 17 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"Each year more than 15,000 Americans are diagnosed with a primary brain tumors, and as many as 200,000 with metastatic brain tumors, nearly all of whom receive radiation therapy," said Edward G. Shaw, M.D. "For survivors of brain tumor radiation, symptoms of short-term memory loss and mood changes similar to those seen in Alzheimer's disease, as well as fatigue, frequently occur, leading to a poor quality of life."

Donepezil, part of a class of drugs called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, "has demonstrated efficacy in mild to severe Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia," said Stephen R. Rapp, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine and senior author on the paper. It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for that purpose.

"The results of this initial study encourage continued investigation of donepezil and other AChE inhibitors," Rapp said.

The research team is planning a clinical trial in which treatment of brain tumor patients with donepezil will be compared to an inert placebo, and neither the doctor nor the patient will know which pill they received until the study is completed.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study of an AChE inhibitor or any other drug administered to long-term survivors of partial or whole brain radiation therapy in an attempt to reduce the symptoms associated with a brain tumor and its treatments," said Shaw, professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation
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Contact: Robert Conn
rconn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4977
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
17-Mar-2006


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