Brain gray matter reduction and premature brain aging after breast cancer chemotherapy: a longitudinal multicenter data pooling analysis.


Brain gray matter (GM) reductions have been reported after breast cancer chemotherapy, typically in small and/or cross-sectional cohorts, most commonly using voxel-based morphometry (VBM). There has been little examination of approaches such as deformation-based morphometry (DBM), machine-learning-based brain aging metrics, or the relationship of clinical and demographic risk factors to GM reduction. This international data pooling study begins to address these questions. Participants included breast cancer patients treated with (CT+, n = 183) and without (CT-, n = 155) chemotherapy and noncancer controls (NC, n = 145), scanned pre- and post-chemotherapy or comparable intervals. VBM and DBM examined GM volume. Estimated brain aging was compared to chronological aging. Correlation analyses examined associations between VBM, DBM, and brain age, and between neuroimaging outcomes, baseline age, and time since chemotherapy completion. CT+ showed longitudinal GM volume reductions, primarily in frontal regions, with a broader spatial extent on DBM than VBM. CT- showed smaller clusters of GM reduction using both methods. Predicted brain aging was significantly greater in CT+ than NC, and older baseline age correlated with greater brain aging. Time since chemotherapy negatively correlated with brain aging and annual GM loss. This large-scale data pooling analysis confirmed findings of frontal lobe GM reduction after breast cancer chemotherapy. Milder changes were evident in patients not receiving chemotherapy. CT+ also demonstrated premature brain aging relative to NC, particularly at older age, but showed evidence for at least partial GM recovery over time. When validated in future studies, such knowledge could assist in weighing the risks and benefits of treatment strategies.

More about this publication

Brain imaging and behavior
  • Volume 17
  • Issue nr. 5
  • Pages 507-518
  • Publication date 01-10-2023

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