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Open Access Review

Using lithium as a neuroprotective agent in patients with cancer

Mustafa Khasraw123*, David Ashley12, Greg Wheeler4 and Michael Berk12567

Author affiliations

1 Andrew Love Cancer Centre, Geelong Hospital, Victoria, Australia

2 School of Medicine of Deakin University, Geelong Victoria, Australia

3 Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville Victoria, Australia

4 Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne Victoria, Australia

5 Mental Health Research Institute, Parkville Victoria, Australia

6 Orygen Youth Health Research Centre and Centre for Youth Mental Health, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

7 Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Medicine 2012, 10:131  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-131

Published: 2 November 2012

Abstract

Neurocognitive impairment is being increasingly recognized as an important issue in patients with cancer who develop cognitive difficulties either as part of direct or indirect involvement of the nervous system or as a consequence of either chemotherapy-related or radiotherapy-related complications. Brain radiotherapy in particular can lead to significant cognitive defects. Neurocognitive decline adversely affects quality of life, meaningful employment, and even simple daily activities. Neuroprotection may be a viable and realistic goal in preventing neurocognitive sequelae in these patients, especially in the setting of cranial irradiation. Lithium is an agent that has been in use for psychiatric disorders for decades, but recently there has been emerging evidence that it can have a neuroprotective effect.

This review discusses neurocognitive impairment in patients with cancer and the potential for investigating the use of lithium as a neuroprotectant in such patients.