According to a study published the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the agent Aricept (donezepril) may reduce brain impairment and improve quality of life for cancer patients who have undergone radiation to the brain.
Aricept is known as an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor. It is the most widely used AChE inhibitor in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and has demonstrated improvements in cognitive function among these patients. AChE inhibitors work by blocking the enzyme (protein) acetylcholinesterase, which breaks down the important neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells and muscles.
By studying brain scans, researchers have noted similarities between brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease and those who have undergone radiation to the brain. Furthermore, patients who have undergone radiation to the brain and patients with Alzheimer's disease both often have low brain levels of choline acetyltransferase and acetylcholine. These agents are involved in memory and cognition. Researchers have therefore suggested that treatment for Alzheimer's, including agents such as Aricept, may also benefit cancer patients who have experienced cognitive impairment following radiation to the brain.