Health Advice



Coming up with a solution to chemo brain

By Michael Roizen, M.D. on

Julie Walters, who played Molly Weasley in seven Harry Potter movies, announced that she beat stage 3 bowel cancer in 2020 and that her chemotherapy turned out to be "fine." She was fortunate. Around 75% to 80% of cancer patients experience chemo brain -- confusion, memory lapses, and trouble with words and focus. And, although for many folks the fogginess clears nine to 12 months after treatment, it persists for 10% to 20% of patients.

Well, finally there's good news for anyone contending with those life-dimming side effects. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation has uncovered the molecular changes that chemo causes. It turns out that it alters an important cellular pathway in the brain that's linked to cognitive function. They also found that there are already two drugs approved for treating multiple sclerosis that can halt those cognition-damaging biochemical changes -- they're called S1PR1-antagonists. One MS drug, Gilenya, is also being studied to see if it can prevent neuropathic pain in patients with breast cancer who were treated with Paclitaxel.

If you have gone through chemo, are going through it now, or are scheduled to, talk to your oncologist about the status of these studies. Ask if the drugs have been used safely off-label in patients (it may be too early to know that) and keep track of how the research progresses. And, know that despite potential side effects, chemo is lifesaving. It may cure cancer or reduce symptoms, and it can make surgery and radiation treatments more effective.



Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2022 Michael Roizen, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.



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