Catechol-O-methyltransferase genotype modulates cancer treatment-related cognitive deficits in breast cancer survivors

Brent J. Small, Kerri Sharp Rawson, Erin Walsh, Heather S.L. Jim, Tiffany F. Hughes, Lindsay Iser, Michael A. Andrykowski, Paul B. Jacobsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Recent attention has focused on the negative effects of chemotherapy on the cognitive performance of cancer survivors. The current study examined modification of this risk by catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) genotype based on evidence in adult populations that the presence of a Val allele is associated with poorer cognitive performance. METHODS: Breast cancer survivors treated with radiotherapy (n = 58), and/or chemotherapy (n = 72), and 204 healthy controls (HCs) completed tests of cognitive performance and provided saliva for COMT genotyping. COMT genotype was divided into Val carriers (Val+; Val/Val, Val/Met) or COMT-Met homozygote carriers (Met; Met/Met). RESULTS: COMT-Val+ carriers performed more poorly on tests of attention, verbal fluency, and motor speed relative to COMT-Met homozygotes. Moreover, COMT-Val+ carriers treated with chemotherapy performed more poorly on tests of attention relative to HC group members who were also Val+ carriers. CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that persons treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer who also possess the COMT-Val gene are susceptible to negative effects on their cognitive health. This research is important because it strives to understand the factors that predispose some cancer survivors to more negative quality-of-life outcomes. Cancer 2011.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1376
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011


  • cancer survivor
  • cognitive performance
  • genetics
  • research methods


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