A recent study demonstrated the feasibility of remote methods for evaluating cognitive and psychosocial function in patients with hematologic malignancies. Results of this study were reported in the journal Cancer Medicine.

Impacts on cognitive function by cancer and its treatment have previously been researched mainly in the context of breast cancer, with less understood about such impacts with other cancer types, the study investigators explained in their report. “Certain hematologic cancers, including multiple myeloma (MM) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), undergo more intensive treatment regimens that may be associated with higher risk for cognitive decline,” they wrote.

Additionally, the researchers noted challenges with performing repeated neuropsychological assessments of patients at oncology centers. They undertook this study to investigate cognitive impairment in patients with MM and NHL and to examine the feasibility of remote assessment methods.


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The study enrolled 22 patients with MM or NHL and 40 participants to serve as a healthy control group. Participants were at least 21 years of age. Those with MM or NHL had received high-dose chemotherapy and underwent autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation 30 or more days prior to enrollment.

Cognitive function was assessed using the BrainCheck cognitive testing battery, and the Patient Reported Outcome Measures Information System v2.0 Cognitive Function Short Form 8a (PROMIS Cognitive) tool was used for subjective assessment of cognitive function. Assessments were conducted remotely, and research staff interacted with participants by video conference call to provide any assistance as needed.

Participants with cancer had a mean age of 59.19 years, and members of the control group, had a mean age of 54.59 years (P =.101). Among participants with cancer, 50% had MM and 50% had NHL; 36% had received high-dose dexamethasone and 23% had received immunotherapy.

Participants were all able to access questionnaires and test resources. The testing battery was completed by all but 1 participant, who was a member of the control group. This participant had received a phone call during the testing session that led to the participant’s test timing out, so data from this test were not included in analyses.

Results from the BrainCheck tests indicated that patients in the group with cancer showed significantly lower scores on most tests. Patients with cancer also had a lower mean composite score than did those in the control group (P <.001).

Regarding patient-reported outcomes, patients with cancer reported significantly lower scores for cognitive function (P =.01), physical function (P <.001), and social function (P <.001) than did the control group. Patients with cancer also reported significantly greater fatigue (P <.001).

The researchers identified several factors that showed significant relationships with lower cognitive function. These included use of dexamethasone, immunotherapy, lower physical functioning, lower income, and older age.

“In conclusion, remote assessment of cognitive and psychosocial functioning in patients with cancer is feasible,” the study investigators concluded in their report.

Reference

Franco-Rocha OY, Mahaffey ML, Matsui W, Kesler SR. Remote assessment of cognitive dysfunction in hematologic malignancies using web-based neuropsychological testing. Cancer Med. Published online October 11, 2022. doi:10.1002/cam4.5331

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor