Proton therapy works well for pediatric brain tumors

2018 10 21 20 23 4419 Astro 20181022040021

Children with brain tumors who were treated with proton therapy had better neurocognitive outcomes than those who received traditional x-ray-based radiation therapy, according to a study by researchers from Northwestern University.

The brains of children are more sensitive to radiation, which can disrupt white-matter connections and prevent the brain from developing normally, according to a team led by Dr. Jeffrey Paul Gross, a radiation oncology resident at Northwestern. By using protons instead of x-rays, proton therapy deposits much of the therapeutic dose directly in the tumor and then stops. Conventional radiation, on the other hand, continues to deposit radiation dose in healthy tissue beyond the tumor.

To assess whether proton therapy had an advantage in treating pediatric brain tumors, Gross and colleagues looked at the outcomes of 125 pediatric patients who received treatment for brain tumors. The median age at diagnosis of the children was 7 years and the median time from treatment to their last assessment was four years.

The patients underwent neuropsychological assessment of IQ, processing speed, visual motor integration, executive function, memory, and parent-reported practical function. After the researchers adjusted for other variables, the children who received proton therapy turned in better performance than those who received conventional radiation:

  • Full-scale IQ -- 10.6 points higher
  • Processing speed -- 12.6 points higher
  • Practical function -- 13.8 points higher

The results of the study were presented in October at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting, as well as at the International Symposium on Pediatric Neuro-Oncology.

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