UVM Cancer Center researchers receive Northern New England Clinical Oncology Society (NNECOS) Collaborative Research Grant to study “Immunobrain”

March 4, 2022 by Kate Strotmeyer

Up to 75% of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy report memory or cognitive impairment (so-called “chemo-brain”), but the mechanisms behind this phenomenon remain poorly understood. Further, the impact of immune therapy on brain function is not well described, despite the known potential for inflammation in the brain which may cause side effects such as headache, confusion, or memory impairment. 
Members of the University of Vermont Cancer Center, Sarah Gillett, MD, PhD (UVM '15), Alissa A. Thomas, MD, and Hibba Rehman, MD were awarded a Northern New England Clinical Oncology Society (NNECOS) Collaborative Research Grant for their study “Immunobrain”: Evaluating neurocognitive effects of immune checkpoint inhibitors in cancer patients
Their project will enroll 20 cancer patients on immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) immunotherapy. Investigators will use a series of cognitive assessments at baseline, 3-, 6-, and 12-month intervals to measure neuro-cognitive impact.  

“As immunotherapy becomes a mainstay of treatment, especially in older patient populations who may not be candidates to receive conventional chemotherapy, this study will help us understand whether immune therapy causes changes in cognitive function that can affect quality of life. We hope to understand how often changes to memory and cognition occur on immune therapy and will also study risk factors for these types of changes to help identify patients at risk. 

The study launches in spring 2022. For more information about the project, please contact Sarah Gillett, MD,PhD: sarah.gillett@uvmhealth.org.