Julie Meade - Molecular and Behavioural Mechanisms Mediating Paclitaxel-Induced Changes in Affect-Like Behaviour in Mice: VCU 3MT Competition
From Samuel Byrd
There are more senior citizens alive today than at any time in the world’s history. People are living longer, so they have more opportunities to develop cancer, and they are also living to an age where cancer is more common. Cancer is a reality of life. It is projected that there will be 20 million cancer survivors by the end of the next decade. However, with advancements in chemotherapy, cancer is no longer a death sentence, but rather a chronic, manageable disease.
Paclitaxel is a common chemotherapeutic used for the treatment of breast, ovarian, and non-small cell lung cancers. Paclitaxel has many side effects, including neuropathic pain and emotional changes. Patients who are treated with any chemotherapeutic can experience anxiety, depression, and cognitive deficit, but patients who receive drugs in the taxane family, such as paclitaxel, report longer duration of emotional symptoms. These changes in mood can last for up to five years after finishing chemotherapy. Half a million people each year are treated with paclitaxel, and because the survival rates of paclitaxel-treated patients are favorable, millions of cancer survivors who received this drug are alive today, living with depression. While double-blind clinical trials report modest efficacy of fluoxetine for the treatment of depression in cancer survivors treated with non-taxane chemotherapeutics, clinical trials have repeatedly failed to find antidepressants that are efficacious in treating paclitaxel-induced emotional changes. Simply, there is no antidepressant that works in this population.For my research, I treat cancer-free mice with hospital-grade paclitaxel. The mice begin showing signs of depression, such as lack of pleasure and increased hopelessness. Using a variety of in vitro assays, I characterize changes in the brain, so that new classes of antidepressants can be designed to target these neurochemical changes. My pilot research with a novel antidepressant is hopeful. Advances in antidepressants would improve the quality of life of millions of cancer survivors, as well as other individuals with depression.