AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 28, Number 3, 2019

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Pediatric Brain Tumor Patients Treated with Proton Therapy Have Favorable Cognitive Outcomes Relative to X-ray Radiation Therapy

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Proton therapy treatment for pediatric brain tumor patients is associated with better neurocognitive outcomes compared to x-ray radiation therapy according to a study.

In a retrospective study, Northwestern Medicine researchers compared the outcomes of 125 pediatric patients who received treatment for brain tumors. After accounting for other factors on a multivariable analysis, proton therapy was associated with higher performance in terms of full-scale IQ (10.6 points higher), processing speed (12.6 points higher) and parent-reported practical function (13.8 points higher) relative to x-ray radiation. Other significant factors included patient age, receipt of craniospinal irradiation and the presence of hydrocephalus.

“A child’s brain is more sensitive to radiation. The radiation can disrupt connections being formed in the white matter and prevent the brain from developing normally,” said lead author Jeffrey Paul Gross, MD, MS, Northwestern University radiation oncology resident.  “If we are able to spare healthy portions of the brain from radiation there is a potential for improved long-term cognitive outcomes.”

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