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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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Stem cell transplantation

Cognitive and academic consequences of stem cell transplantation in children have also been evaluated. In a report from the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in which 268 patients were treated with stem cell transplant, minimal risk of late cognitive and academic sequelae was seen. Subgroups of patients were at relatively higher risk, including those undergoing unrelated donor transplantation, receiving total-body irradiation, and developing graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). However, these differences were small relative to differences in premorbid functioning, particularly those associated with socioeconomic status.[45]

Neurocognitive function of pediatric patients with hematologic malignancies who had undergone hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) was evaluated prior to HSCT and then at 1, 3, and 5 years post-HSCT. In this series of 38 patients who had all received intrathecal chemotherapy as part of their treatment, significant declines in visual motor skills and memory test scores were noted within the first year posttransplant. By 3 years posttransplant, there was an improvement in the visual motor development scores and memory scores, but there were new deficits seen in long-term memory scores. By 5 years posttransplant, there were progressive declines in verbal skills, performance skills, and new deficits seen in long-term verbal memory scores. The greatest decline in neurocognitive function occurred in patients who received cranial irradiation either as part of their initial therapy or as part of their HSCT conditioning.[46]

Most neurocognitive late effects are thought to be related to white matter damage in the brain. This was investigated in children with leukemia who were treated with HSCT. In a series of 36 patients, performance on neurocognitive measures associated with white matter was compared with performance on measures associated with gray matter. Composite white matter scores were significantly lower than composite gray matter scores.[47]

Neurologic Sequelae

Neurologic complications may be predisposed by tumor location, neurosurgery, radiation therapy, or specific neurotoxic chemotherapeutic agents. In children with CNS tumors, mass effect, tumor infiltration, and increased intracranial pressure may result in motor or sensory deficits, cerebellar dysfunction, and such secondary effects as seizures and cerebrovascular complications.

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