Radiation therapy vital to treating brain tumors, but it exacts a toll

June 9, 2017, University of California - San Diego

Radiation therapy (RT) using high-energy particles, like x-rays or electron beams, is a common and critical component in successfully treating patients with brain tumors, but it is also associated with significant adverse effects, such as neuronal loss in adjacent healthy tissues.

In a new study, published in the June issue of Brain Connectivity, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that irradiation can cause broader adverse effects, altering the structural network properties in impacted brains and perhaps contributing to delayed cognitive impairments observed in many following brain RT.

"RT is a mainstay of brain tumor treatment," said Naeim Bahrami, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Multimodal Imaging and Genetics at UC San Diego School of Medicine and first author of the study. "Unfortunately, a side effect can be incidental irradiation of normal brain tissue and radiation-induced injury, which have been linked to impairment of brain function. As patient outcomes improve, a major concern is managing long-term complications, including cognitive decline and disability."

Previous research has shown that RT can affect discrete brain regions by causing cortical atrophy. In the new study, Bahrami and colleagues used complex mathematical models, such as graph theory, to look more broadly by estimating the thickness of the brain cortex in 54 patients with before and after RT, using magnetic resonance imaging.

They found that RT produced both local and global changes in the structural network topology of the brain, thinning the cortex at a rate faster than that associated with Alzheimer's disease, and increasing segregation between regions of the that typically work together to perform functions such as memory-making and recall.

Apart from adding new urgency to efforts to further refine RT and minimize adverse side effects, Bahrami said more research is needed to determine whether their topology-based technique might be useful in predicting or monitoring neurocognitive decline in patients following RT or other cancer-related therapies.

"Finding a non-invasive imaging biomarker to better assess cognitive function in the moment and in the future would be very helpful to clinicians," Bahrami said.

Explore further: Targeted radiosurgery better than whole-brain radiation for treating brain tumors

More information: Brain Connectivity, DOI: 10.1059/brain.2017.0494

Related Stories

Targeted radiosurgery better than whole-brain radiation for treating brain tumors

February 16, 2017
Tumors that originate in other organs of the body and spread to the brain are known as metastatic brain tumors. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, this type of tumor is the most common in adults, affecting ...

Strategic brain training positively affects neural connectivity for individuals with TBI

May 23, 2017
A recent study from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas shows that a certain type of instructor-led brain training protocol can stimulate structural changes in the brain and neural connections ...

Exercise study offers hope in fight against Alzheimer's

May 3, 2017
Could the initiation of a simple walking exercise program help older adults to reverse declines in key brain regions? A new study led by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers adds more information about ...

Structural deficits may explain mood-independent cognitive difficulties in bipolar disorder

November 1, 2016
A new study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reports a link between reduced functional activation and reduced cortical thickness in the brains of patients ...

Study reveals effects of chemoradiation in brains of glioblastoma patients

August 17, 2015
A study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center researchers - the first to examine the effects of combined radiation and chemotherapy on the healthy brain tissue of glioblastoma patients - reveals not only ...

Imaging links structural brain changes and cognitive decline in Parkinson's

December 7, 2016
People with Parkinson's disease and cognitive impairment have disruptions in their brain networks that can be seen on a type of MRI, according to a study appearing online in the journal Radiology.

Recommended for you

Forty percent of people have a fictional first memory, says study

July 17, 2018
Researchers have conducted one of the largest surveys of people's first memories, finding that nearly 40 per cent of people had a first memory which is fictional.

Protein found to be key component in irregularly excited brain cells

July 17, 2018
In a new study in mice, researchers have identified a key protein involved in the irregular brain cell activity seen in autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy. The protein, p53, is well-known in cancer biology as a tumor ...

Insight without incision: Advances in noninvasive brain imaging offers improvements to epilepsy surgery

July 17, 2018
About a third of epilepsy sufferers require treatment through surgery. To check for severe epilepsy, clinicians use a surgical procedure called electrocorticography (ECoG). An ECoG maps a section of brain tissue to help clinicians ...

New drug target for remyelination in MS is identified

July 17, 2018
Remyelination, the spontaneous regeneration of the fatty insulator in the brain that keeps neurons communicating, has long been seen as crucial to the next big advance in treating multiple sclerosis (MS). However, a lack ...

Artificial neural networks now able to help reveal a brain's structure

July 17, 2018
The function of the brain is based on the connections between nerve cells. In order to map these connections and to create the connectome, the "wiring diagram" of a brain, neurobiologists capture images of the brain with ...

Convergence of synaptic signals is mediated by a protein critical for learning and memory

July 16, 2018
Inside the brain, is a complex symphony of perfectly coordinated signaling. Hundreds of different molecules amplify, modify and carry information from tiny synaptic compartments all the way through the entire length of a ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.