Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Human Genetics

First Advisor

Colleen Jackson-Cook


Breast cancer (BC) is one of the most common diagnosed malignancies in females. Although 90% of early diagnosed women are expected to survive for at least 5 years, their quality of life is adversely affected by a cluster of symptoms which we collectively named “psychoneurological symptoms’’ (PN). Given that acquired telomere attrition has been speculated to be a causal factor in chronic diseases and the lack in the literature of mechanisms giving rise to PN symptoms, this study was performed to assess telomere length using a chromosome-specific telomere assay before receiving chemotherapy and at the first chemotherapy. We showed significant telomere attrition on the short arm of chromosome 9. In addition, we showed a negative correlation between telomere length and depression. Furthermore, we evaluated several variables as predictors of the change in telomere length and showed that chemotherapy was predictive of shortened telomere length. Taken together, one can speculate that shortened telomeres could result in epigenetic alterations in the genes juxtaposed to the telomeric region, giving rise to the development and persistence of PN symptoms. Knowledge gained from this study will offer hope for the development of therapeutic interventions that could prevent undesirable side effects and ensure a better quality of life for patients with BC.


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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013