Cancer survivors post-chemotherapy exhibit unique proprioceptive deficits in proximal limbs

Allison B. Wang*, Stephen N. Housley, Ann Marie Flores, Timothy C. Cope, Eric J. Perreault

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Oxaliplatin (OX) chemotherapy for colorectal cancer is associated with adverse neurotoxic effects that can contribute to long-term sensorimotor impairments in cancer survivors. It is often thought that the sensorimotor impairments are dominated by OX-induced dying-back sensory neuropathy that primarily affects the distal regions of the limb. Recent preclinical studies have identified encoding dysfunction of muscle proprioceptors as an alternative mechanism. Unlike the dying-back sensory neuropathy affecting distal limbs, dysfunction of muscle proprioceptors could have more widespread effects. Most investigations of chemotherapy-induced sensorimotor impairments have considered only the effects of distal changes in sensory processing; none have evaluated proximal changes or their influence on function. Our study fills this gap by evaluating the functional use of proprioception in the shoulder and elbow joints of cancer survivors post OX chemotherapy. We implemented three multidirectional sensorimotor tasks: force matching, target reaching, and postural stability tasks to evaluate various aspects of proprioception and their use. Force and kinematic data of the sensorimotor tasks were collected in 13 cancer survivors treated with OX and 13 age-matched healthy controls. Results: Cancer survivors exhibited less accuracy and precision than an age-matched control group when they had to rely only on proprioceptive information to match force, even for forces that required only torques about the shoulder. There were also small differences in the ability to maintain arm posture but no significant differences in reaching. The force deficits in cancer survivors were significantly correlated with self-reported motor dysfunction. Conclusions: These results suggest that cancer survivors post OX chemotherapy exhibit proximal proprioceptive deficits, and that the deficits in producing accurate and precise forces are larger than those for producing unloaded movements. Current clinical assessments of chemotherapy-related sensorimotor dysfunction are largely limited to distal symptoms. Our study suggests that we also need to consider changes in proximal function. Force matching tasks similar to those used here could provide a clinically meaningful approach to quantifying OX-related movement dysfunction during and after chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number32
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Force matching
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Postural stability
  • Proprioception
  • Quantitative assessment
  • Reaching
  • Sensorimotor
  • Upper-limb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Rehabilitation


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