Pediatric proton therapy has better cognitive outcomes, study finds

Researchers at Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine found better neurocognitive outcomes in pediatric brain tumor patients receiving proton therapy than X-ray radiation therapy, according to Imagining Technology News.

For the study,researchers compared the outcomes of 125 pediatric patients who were treated for brain tumors. Pediatric patients who underwent proton therapy had a higher performing full-scale IQ (10.6 points), higher processing speed (12.6 points) and parent-reported practical function (about 14 points). Other positive key factor were age;  whether the patient received a craniospinal irradiation, or whether the patient developed hydrocephalus. The authors also indicated patients using proton therapies had a shorter post-treatment assessment.

"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," Jeffrey Paul Gross, MD, radiation oncology at Chicago-based Northwestern University and lead author, wrote. "If we are able to spare healthy portions of the brain from radiation, there is a potential for improved long-term cognitive outcomes."

Proton therapy uses protons — positively charged particles —instead of standard X-rays. The protons disperse most of their energy directly into the tumor and then stop where conventional radiation would continue to deposit.

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