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Keywords:

  • acute lymphoblastic leukemia;
  • children;
  • neuropsychological;
  • risk group

Abstract

Background

Children treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) as High Risk (HR) patients may be more vulnerable to neurocognitive late effects because of the greater intensity of their therapy. We compared neuropsychological outcomes in children treated for Standard Risk (SR) or HR ALL on Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) Consortium ALL Protocol 95-01. We also evaluated their performance relative to normative expectations.

Procedure

Between 1996 and 2000, 498 children with newly diagnosed ALL were treated on Protocol 95-01, 298 of whom were eligible for neuropsychological follow-up. A feature of this protocol was modification of risk group criteria to treat more children as SR rather than HR patients, intended to minimize toxicities. Testing was completed at a median of 5.3 years post-diagnosis for 211 patients (70.8%; ages 6–25 years; 45.5% male; 40% HR), all of whom were in continuous complete remission.

Results

Test scores for both groups were generally at or above normative expectation, with the exception of verbal working memory, processing complex visual information, and parent ratings of metacognitive skills. After adjusting for covariates, the SR group performed better on measures of IQ and academic achievement, working memory and visual learning. Effect sizes, however, were only in the small to moderate range.

Conclusions

HR patients exhibited neuropsychological deficits relative to SR patients, though the differences were modest in degree. Modification of the risk group criteria to treat more children on the SR protocol therefore likely afforded some benefit in terms of neurocognitive late effects. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2012; 58: 758–765. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.