Cognitive symptoms have a negative impact on quality of life, say the majority of patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). Moreover, those living with the disease for 5 or more years tend to report more cognitive impairments.

Based on these findings, the authors of the study suggest it is important to address cancer-related cognitive impairment in clinical practice as it may improve long-term function and quality of life, especially given that newly available treatments substantially increase patients’ overall survival. 

The results of the multinational survey were published in the journal Cancer.

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It was already known that cognitive impairment related to cancer has a negative effect on the quality of life of cancer survivors. However, the effect of this impairment, specifically in patients with GIST, has not been studied.

Here, a team of researchers led by Anette U. Duensing, MD, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, investigated the effect of cancer-related cognitive impairment on the quality of life of patients with GIST.

The team used an online survey administered through 5 international GIST and sarcoma support organizations to assess cognitive impairment related to cancer in 485 patients with GIST. 

The results showed that the majority of patients (63.91%) had cognitive symptoms that had a significantly negative impact on their quality of life. The cognitive function of patients who were diagnosed 5 or more years ago was even worse than that of those who were diagnosed less than 5 years ago. This was the case regardless of the patients’ level of education or intelligence quotient. 

There was also no apparent association between tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy and cognitive impairment, even though patients who survived longer were more likely to have received tyrosine kinase inhibitor treatment.

“We believe this first broad assessment of [cancer-related cognitive impairment] among those with GIST is a valid picture of patient [quality of life] and is a starting point for further clinical investigation with more complete neuropsychological evaluation,” the researchers concluded. 


Ferguson RJ, Manculich J, Chang H, et al. Self-reported cognitive impairments and quality of life in patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumor: results of a multinational survey. Cancer. Published online September 20, 2022. doi:10.1002/cncr.34469