Low dose aspirin blocks breast cancer-induced cognitive impairment in mice

Adam K. Walker, Aeson Chang, Alexandra I. Ziegler, Haryana M. Dhillon, Janette L. Vardy, Erica K. Sloan

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Cancer patients with non-central nervous system tumors often suffer from cognitive impairment. While chemotherapy has long been attributed as the cause of these memory, learning and concentration difficulties, we recently observed cognitive impairment in cancer patients prior to treatment. This suggests the cancer alone may be sufficient to induce cognitive impairment, however the mechanisms are unknown. Here, we show that we can experimentally replicate the clinical phenomenon of cancer-associated cognitive impairment and we identify inflammation as a causal mechanism. We demonstrate that a peripheral tumor is sufficient to induce memory loss. Using an othotopic mouse model of breast cancer, we found that mice with 4T1.2 or EO771 mammary tumors had significantly poorer memory than mice without tumors. Memory impairment was independent of cancer-induced sickness behavior, which was only observed during the later stage of cancer progression in mice with high metastatic burden. Tumor-secreted factors were sufficient to induce memory impairment and pro-inflammatory cytokines were elevated in the plasma of tumor-bearing mice. Oral treatment with low-dose aspirin completely blocked tumor-induced memory impairment without affecting tumor-induced sickness or tumor growth, demonstrating a causal role for inflammation in cognitive impairment. These findings suggest that anti-inflam-matories may be a safe and readily translatable strategy that could be used to prevent cancer-associated cognitive impairment in patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0208593
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2018


  • cognitive impairment
  • cancer treatment
  • memory
  • mice
  • mouse models
  • inflammation
  • visual object recognition
  • cytokines

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