Munjal Acharya, left, and Alexandre Chan will explore potential “chemobrain” treatments. Christopher Todd Studios

The University of California, Irvine has been awarded a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to evaluate the augmentation of brain-derived neurotropic factor to alleviate cancer-related cognitive impairment. Commonly known as “chemobrain,” it is a distressing issue affecting up to 75 percent of all cancer survivors. This multi-PI project translates findings from past human studies conducted by Alexandre Chan, Pharm.D., M.P.H., principal investigator and chair and professor of clinical pharmacy practice, into the laboratory, with the goal of evaluating the feasibility of enhancing the BDNF protein as a potential strategy for mitigating chemobrain. BDNF is associated with the growth, maintenance and survival of neurons in the brain and doxorubicin, a drug that is commonly used in conventional cancer treatment, has been linked to significant declines in BDNF levels. “It is believed that enhancing BDNF may hold the key to addressing cognitive impairments often experienced by survivors and we will explore the use of the FDA-approved drug riluzole to increase those levels,” said Chan. This multiple principal investigator team study is being conducted in partnership with Munjal Acharya, M.S., Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology.