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Alzheimer's Drug Helps Brain Tumor Patients

Aricept improved thinking, mood after radiation therapy, researchers say

FRIDAY, March 17, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Six months of treatment with the Alzheimer's drug Aricept significantly improved cognitive function, mood and quality of life in brain tumor patients after radiation therapy, U.S. researchers report.

Aricept (donepezil) belongs to a class of drugs called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study of an AChE inhibitor or any other drug administered to long-term survivors of partial or whole brain radiation therapy in an attempt to reduce the symptoms associated with a brain tumor and its treatments," study co-author Dr. Edward G. Shaw, chairman of the department of radiation oncology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

Reporting in the March 17 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Shaw's team decided to try Aricept on this group of patients after noticing that radiation-induced brain injury resembles Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, both in terms of symptoms and what's seen with brain-imaging technology.

"Each year, more than 15,000 Americans are diagnosed with primary brain tumors, and as many as 200,000 with metastatic brain tumors, nearly all of whom receive radiation therapy," Shaw said. "For survivors of brain tumor radiation, symptoms of short-term memory loss and mood changes similar to those seen in Alzheimer's disease, as well as fatigue, frequently occur, leading to a poor quality of life."

The researchers are now planning a clinical trial to compare brain tumor patients treated with Aricept to those treated with a placebo.

More information

The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology has more about radiation therapy for brain tumors.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, March 17, 2006
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