Cancer therapy makes patients sick. The therapies that are available to clinicians allow them to successfully control nausea, emesis and pain. However, this is not the case for a number of other symptoms that include fatigue, distractibility, poor memory, and diminished interest in previously pleasurable activities. These symptoms cluster during the course of cancer therapy and impair patient quality of life, limit therapy options and do not always resolve at the cessation of treatment. It is possible to describe the intensity and temporal features of symptoms and assess their relationship with the inflammatory response that is associated with cancer and cancer therapy. At the preclinical level, sophisticated animal models still need to be deployed to study the causal role of inflammation in specific components of cancer-related symptoms. Various approaches can be optimally combined in a translational symptom research pathway to provide a framework for assessing in a systematic manner the neurobehavioral toxicity of existing and newly developed cancer therapies. Ultimately, this knowledge will allow derivation of mechanism-based interventions to prevent or alleviate cancer-related symptoms.
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