Program Official

Principal Investigator

Diane Marie Von
Awardee Organization

Ohio State University
United States

Fiscal Year
Activity Code
Early Stage Investigator Grants (ESI)
Not Applicable
Project End Date

Cognitive Training for Cancer-related Cognitive Impairment: A Multi-Center Randomized Controlled Trial

The goal of this project is to determine the efficacy of computerized cognitive training for breast cancer survivors (BCS) suffering from cancer-related cognitive impairment (CRCI). For millions of cancer survivors, CRCI is a prevalent, severe, and persistent problem that negatively impacts work outcomes (work ability and productivity), health perception, and health-related quality of life. Evidence suggests that up to 75% of the more than 3.8 million BCS in the U.S. will experience cognitive changes that may persist for years after treatment ends. Unfortunately, the scientific basis for managing these cognitive changes in cancer survivors is extremely limited. Available evidence from pilot studies, including our own work, suggests that computerized cognitive training, which is based on the principles of neuroplasticity (ability of brain neurons to re-organize and form new neural networks), may be a viable treatment option. However, previous trials to date have been limited by lack of attention-controlled designs, small samples, and limited follow-up. Therefore, to overcome limitations of past studies and build on our pilot results, the purpose of this 2-group, double-masked, randomized controlled trial is to conduct the first full-scale efficacy trial to compare computerized cognitive training (BrainHQ) to computerized active attention control (Sudoku, crossword, word find, etc.) in BCS. Specific aims are to: (1) test the efficacy of computerized cognitive training on improving perceived cognitive function immediately postintervention and over time, compared to active attention control; (2) test the efficacy of computerized cognitive training on cognitive performance over time compared to attention control; and (3) explore transfer effects on real-world, everyday outcomes including work-related outcomes and health-related quality of life over time compared to active attention control. This proposal has been peer-reviewed and endorsed by the NRG Oncology Research Base of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCI NCORP) and the NCI Division of Cancer Prevention has approved NRG Oncology to conduct the trial at their affiliated sites. A total of 386 eligible BCS will be identified and consented through the NCI NCORP and NCI National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) sites, composed of over 2,000 participating locations including community and minority clinical oncology sites. Outcomes will be collected at four time points: baseline, prior to intervention (T1), immediately post-intervention (T2), 3 months (T3), and 6 months (T4) post-intervention. Data will be analyzed using linear mixed models for repeated measures. The current proposal responds directly to the NCI Notice of Special Interest to test interventions designed to address the adverse aging-related effects of cancer and cancer treatments, builds on our previous pilot studies while also making methodological improvements, and leverages access to all NCORP sites. Therefore, this will be the first full-scale study to test computerized cognitive training in cancer survivors with CRCI and provide empirical evidence for clinicians’ recommendations and survivors’ treatment selections for managing cognitive impairment.


  • Vance DE, Collette C, Frank JS, Billings R, Deaver J, Del Bene VA, Fazeli PL, Bail JR, Li W, Triebel K, Von Ah D, Wang HL. Cognitive intra-individual variability in breast cancer survivors: A systematic review. Applied neuropsychology. Adult. 2023 Oct 25: 1-15. Epub 2023 Oct 25. PMID: 37878814