UPMC, Indiana U researchers get $3M to lead 1st large study on chemo's cognitive effects

The National Cancer Institute has granted $3 million to researchers from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh and Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center in Indianapolis to study cognitive dysfunction after chemotherapy. 

The study, led by Robert Ferguson, PhD, clinical psychologist at UPMC, and Brenna McDonald, a member of the cancer prevention and control research program at Indiana University's cancer center, will focus on the memory problems cancer survivors often experience after chemotherapy. 

It's the first large-scale, multicenter study to do so, according to a May 4 announcement. 

The researchers will analyze the effectiveness of both a cognitive behavioral therapy called memory and attention adaptation training, or MAAT, developed by Dr. Ferguson, and supportive therapy. MAAT involves patients working with a psychologist to identify specific situations where memory issues are most likely to occur and identifying strategies to address them. They will consider how well each therapy, both delivered across eight telehealth visits, improves memory and emotional resistance among breast cancer survivors. 

"The survivor and therapist review what is currently known — and not known — about memory problems associated with cancer and cancer treatment," Dr. Ferguson said. "They also address distress and aggravation that can accompany memory difficulty in daily life to identify the specific situations and apply strategies to reduce or mitigate memory problems." 

The researchers aim to involve 200 women, half of whom will receive MAAT and half who will get supportive therapy. 

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