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Proton Beam Radiation Therapy: The Future May Prove Brighter for Pediatric Patients With Brain Tumors

Authored by: Stephen A Sand, Dept. of Pediatrics, Columbia University Medical Center

A recent editorial was posted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology highlighting an JCO article comparing neurocognitive outcomes of photon radiation therapy vs proton beam radiation therapy.

To read the full editorial article: Proton Beam Radiation Therapy: The Future May Prove Brighter for Pediatric Patients With Brain Tumors

Link to the journal article: Comparing Intelligence Quotient Change After Treatment With Proton Versus Photon Radiation Therapy for Pediatric Brain Tumors

Below is the abstract:

Purpose Compared with photon radiation (XRT), proton beam radiation therapy (PBRT) reduces dose to normal tissues, which may lead to better neurocognitive outcomes. We compared change in intelligence quotient (IQ) over time in pediatric patients with brain tumors treated with PBRT versus XRT.

Patients and Methods IQ scores were available for 150 patients (60 had received XRT, 90 had received PBRT). Linear mixed models examined change in IQ over time since radiation therapy (RT) by RT group, controlling for demographic/clinical characteristics. Craniospinal and focal RT subgroups were also examined.

Results In the PBRT group, no change in IQ over time was identified (P = .130), whereas in the XRT group, IQ declined by 1.1 points per year (P = .004). IQ slopes did not differ between groups (P = .509). IQ was lower in the XRT group (by 8.7 points) versus the PBRT group (P = .011). In the craniospinal subgroup, IQ remained stable in both the PBRT (P = .203) and XRT groups (P = .060), and IQ slopes did not differ (P = .890). IQ was lower in the XRT group (by 12.5 points) versus the PBRT group (P = .004). In the focal subgroup, IQ scores remained stable in the PBRT group (P = .401) but declined significantly in the XRT group by 1.57 points per year (P = .026). IQ slopes did not differ between groups (P = .342).

Conclusion PBRT was not associated with IQ decline or impairment, yet IQ slopes did not differ between the PBRT and XRT groups. It remains unclear if PBRT results in clinically meaningful cognitive sparing that significantly exceeds that of modern XRT protocols. Additional long-term data are needed to fully understand the neurocognitive impact of PBRT in survivors of pediatric brain tumors.