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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Late Effects of the Central Nervous System

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Figure 3. Modeled intelligence quotient (IQ) scores after conformal radiation therapy (CRT) by age for pediatric low-grade glioma. Age is measured in years, and time is measured in months after the start of CRT. Thomas E. Merchant, Heather M. Conklin, Shengjie Wu, Robert H. Lustig, and Xiaoping Xiong, Late Effects of Conformal Radiation Therapy for Pediatric Patients With Low-Grade Glioma: Prospective Evaluation of Cognitive, Endocrine, and Hearing Deficits, Journal of Clinical Oncology, volume 27, issue 22, pages 3691-3697. Reprinted with permission. © (2009) American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.

Glutathione S-transferase M1 and T1 gene polymorphisms may predict patients with medulloblastoma who are more likely to experience neurocognitive toxicity secondary to radiation.[17]

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)

One of the great medical success stories of the past generation is how advances in the treatment of ALL have dramatically improved survival. With the recognition that CNS relapse was common among children in bone marrow remission, presymptomatic CNS radiation and intrathecal chemotherapy were introduced into the treatment of children with ALL in the 1960s and 1970s. The increase in cure rates for children with ALL over the past decades has resulted in greater attention to the neurocognitive morbidity and quality of life of survivors. The goal of current ALL treatment is to minimize adverse late effects while maintaining high survival rates. Patients are stratified for treatment according to their risk of relapse. Cranial radiation is reserved for children (less than 20%) considered at high risk for CNS relapse.[18]

Although low-, standard- and most high-risk patients currently are treated with chemotherapy-only protocols, the described neurocognitive effects for ALL patients are based on a heterogeneous treatment group of survivors in the past who were treated with combinations (simultaneously or sequentially) of intrathecal chemotherapy, radiation, and high-dose chemotherapy making it difficult to differentiate the impact of the individual components. In the future, more accurate data will be available as to the neurocognitive effects on survivors of childhood ALL treated with chemotherapy only.

In a large prospective study (N = 555) of neurocognitive outcomes in children with newly diagnosed ALL randomly assigned to CNS-directed therapy according to risk group (low: intrathecal methotrexate vs. high-dose methotrexate; high: high-dose methotrexate vs. cranial radiation therapy), a significant reduction in IQ scores (4 to 7 points) was observed between all patient groups when compared with controls (P < .002), regardless of the CNS treatment delivered. Children younger than 5 years were more likely to have IQs below 80 at 3 years compared with children older than 5 years at diagnosis, irrespective of treatment allocation, suggesting that younger children are more vulnerable to treatment-related neurologic toxic effects.[19]

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