Previous research has indicated cognitive decline (CD) among testicular cancer patients (TCPs), even in the absence of chemotherapy, but little is known about the underlying pathophysiology. The present study assessed changes in cognitive functions and structural brain connectomes in TCPs and explored the associations between cognitive changes and endocrine status and hypothesized risk genotypes.
Thirty-eight newly orchiectomized TCPs and 21 healthy controls (HCs) comparable to TCPs in terms of age and years of education underwent neuropsychological testing, structural MRI, and a biological assessment at baseline and 6 months later. Cognitive change was assessed with a neuropsychological test battery and determined using a standardized regression-based approach, with substantial change defined as z-scores ≤-1.64 or ≥1.64. MRI scans and graph theory were used to evaluate changes in structural brain connectomes. The associations of cognitive changes with testosterone levels, androgen receptor gene (AR) CAG repeat length, and genotypes (APOE, COMT, and BDNF) were explored.
Compared with HCs, TCPs showed higher rates of substantial decline on processing speed and visuospatial ability and higher rates of substantial improvement on verbal recall and visuospatial learning (p < 0.05; OR = 8.15-15.84). Brain network analysis indicated bilateral thalamic changes in node degree in HCs, but not in TCPs (p < 0.01). In TCPs, higher baseline testosterone levels predicted decline in verbal memory (p < 0.05). No effects were found for AR CAG repeat length, APOE, COMT, or BDNF.
The present study confirms previous findings of domain-specific CD in TCPs following orchiectomy, but also points to domain-specific improvements. The results do not indicate changes in brain connectomes or endocrine status to be the main drivers of CD. Further studies evaluating the mechanisms underlying CD in TCPs, including the possible role of the dynamics of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, are warranted.
Cancer medicine. 2021 Aug 13 [Epub ahead of print]
Cecilie R Buskbjerg, Ali Amidi, Mads Agerbaek, Claus H Gravholt, Sm Hadi Hosseini, Robert Zachariae
Unit for Psychooncology and Health Psychology, Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark., Department of Oncology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark., Department of Endocrinology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark., Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.