- The BCBL, in collaboration with the Onkologikoa-Biodonostia Foundation, leads a project to find markers linked to the cognitive side effects of the disease.
- The knowledge gained could help to design more personalized intervention strategies focused on specific deficits and to prevent sequelae.
- The initiative is funded by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa through the Gipuzkoa Science, Technology and Innovation Network, GipuzkoaNext.
Although the latest data from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) regarding the survival of women diagnosed with breast cancer are positive, it is estimated that the mild cognitive impairment linked to the disease can affect up to 75% of patients at some point during the oncological process.
This deterioration, scientifically known as CRCI (Cancer Related Cognitive Impairment), translates into significant difficulties for these women in resuming professional, domestic and leisure tasks and, in short, a reduction in their quality of life.
With the challenge of identifying biomarkers that help to develop strategies for the diagnosis, prevention and monitoring of this cognitive deterioration associated with breast cancer, the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL), in collaboration with the Onkologikoa-Biodonostia Foundation, is leading the MultiModalCRCI project.
With the challenge of identifying the neural markers associated with CRCI, the BCBL team, in collaboration with the Onkologikoa-Biodonostia Foundation, will work in two different studies with women in different stages of recovery and cancer treatment: a group of women about to start chemotherapy treatment, and another group of women in the survival phase and who have already overcome chemotherapy treatment; in addition to a control group with women without a cancer diagnosis.
“The most innovative aspect of the project is the combination of electroencephalography, MRI and neuropsychological tests in the different groups and how we will then compare the results to check the cognitive status of cancer patients at different stages of the oncological process,” explains Dr. Ruzzoli.
According to the researchers involved in the project, the knowledge acquired will be of vital importance in identifying biomarkers that will help to design more personalized intervention strategies focused on specific cognitive deficits, as well as to prevent sequelae when patients return to their pre-cancer work, social and family life.
“The patient’s perception of her cognitive deficits and the results of the cognitive assessment do not always coincide. On many occasions, although the neuropsychological results are within the normal range, the person presents many cognitive complaints and an impairment in daily life that prevent him or her from functioning as before the cancer diagnosis,” highlights Dr. Manuela Ruzzoli, BCBL researcher in charge of the project.
BCBL’s research will also incorporate a focus on a cognitive function that is also affected by breast cancer but has been overlooked by major international studies: language processing.
“Language is the most salient human faculty. It helps us integrate into society. We will take advantage of our experience and knowledge in this field to integrate a linguistic approach to the study,” adds the BCBL expert.
The project, which is funded by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa through the Gipuzkoa Science, Technology and Innovation Network (GipuzkoaNext), will last one year and could open the door to new lines of research that will allow the design of new studies with a larger sample and long-term follow-up.
“The collaboration with the Onkologikoa-Biodonostia Foundation will guarantee us, in the future, the translation of the results to solutions such as a clinical decision support system or digital biomarkers that allow us, for example, to measure the benefit of an intervention through an indicator of the patient’s mental fatigue,” concludes Dr. Ruzzoli.
To support this research, the BCBL is looking for women without a cancer diagnosis living in Donostia and surrounding areas. Applications can be sent to the email email@example.com or via WhatsApp to the phone number 664 484 366.