Conformal Radiation Therapy Improves Cognitive Outcomes

Childhood ependymoma therapy linked to decline in reading skills, but not math or spelling

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Among children with ependymoma, conformal radiation therapy leads to better long-term academic results compared to conventional radiation therapy approaches, according to a report in the Aug. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Heather M. Conklin, Ph.D., of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and colleagues investigated whether treatment of childhood ependymoma with conformal radiation therapy would preserve cognitive function. Cognitive and academic testing were performed at baseline, at six months and then annually.

During a median follow-up of 59.6 months, math and spelling scores were stable following radiation, but reading scores demonstrated a small but significant decline, the investigators found. Location of supratentorial tumor and multiple surgeries predicted poor reading performance at baseline, while male gender, longer symptomatic duration, prior chemotherapy, pre-existing endocrine abnormalities, hydrocephalus and age under 5 years were predictive of a significant decline in reading scores over time, the researchers report.

"Conformal radiation therapy may result in better long-term cognitive outcomes when compared to conventional radiation therapy approaches," the authors conclude. "Reading appears more vulnerable than other academic skills and may decline over time despite stable intellectual functioning."

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