Neuroprotective effect of paroxetine hydrochloride among 781 cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: A URCC CCOP study

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: June 8, 2009

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Title: Neuroprotective effect of paroxetine hydrochloride among 781 cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: A URCC CCOP study
Reviewer: Christine Hill-Kayser, MD
Presenter: Pascal Jean-Pierre, PhD, MPH
Affiliation: University of Rochester Medical Center

Many cancer survivors report difficulty with neurocognitive functioning, often called Òchemo-brain.Ó This can include impairments in attention, memory, planning and decision making and processing of conversation at normal speeds. Despite the survivor community's cries for help, little research has addressed interventions for this issue. This study evaluated the use of paroxetine (Paxil) as a treatment for chemo-brain.

781 participants were randomized to receive paroxetine or placebo beginning after the first cycle of chemotherapy. Cognitive function was evaluated (using a proven scale) prior to the start of paroxetine and following the 4th cycle of chemotherapy.

Patients receiving paroxetine reported more improvement in attention and memory than those receiving placebo (p < 0.05). This effect remained statistically significant when depression was controlled for.

The authors concluded that paroxetine was beneficial in preventing chemo-brain. It would be helpful to have repeat evaluation several months after completing therapy. This study is an important first step to evaluating paroxetine as an intervention for chemo-brain. Further study is warranted before any recommendations for the use of this therapy are made.

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