Radiotherapy, surgery and the chemotherapeutic agent temozolomide (TMZ) are frontline treatments for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). However beneficial, GBM treatments nevertheless cause anxiety or depression in nearly 50% of patients. To further understand the basis of these neurological complications, we investigated the effects of combined radiotherapy and TMZ chemotherapy (combined treatment) on neurological impairments using a mouse model. Five weeks after combined treatment, mice displayed anxiety-like behaviors, and at 15 weeks both anxiety- and depression-like behaviors were observed. Relevant to the known roles of the serotonin axis in mood disorders, we found that 5HT1A serotonin receptor levels were decreased by ∼50% in the hippocampus at both early and late time points, and a 37% decrease in serotonin levels was observed at 15 weeks postirradiation. Furthermore, chronic treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine was sufficient for reversing combined treatment-induced depression-like behaviors. Combined treatment also elicited a transient early increase in activated microglia in the hippocampus, suggesting therapy-induced neuroinflammation that subsided by 15 weeks. Together, the results of this study suggest that interventions targeting the serotonin axis may help ameliorate certain neurological side effects associated with the clinical management of GBM to improve the overall quality of life for cancer patients.

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