15 October 2019

A major new research project has begun in the US which aims to prevent cognitive deterioration in paediatric cancer patients.

The study, led by Dr Peter Cole from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, will explore how to detect those neurocognitive changes in children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) at the early stages of their treatment.

Although cure rates for children with cancer are increasing, treatments can cause permanent deterioration of brain functions, which can result in impairments in attention, concentration, memory and learning.

Dr Cole has received a $3.4 million, five-year grant from the US National Institutes of Health to carry out the research. He aims to explore biomarkers associated with neurocognitive decline to identify a subset of patients who would benefit from a behavioural intervention or treatment clinical trial. 

“While more than 85% of children with ALL can expect to be cured, many experience serious side effects,” he said.

“In some cases the treatment-related organ damage can be permanent. They are all receiving the same type of treatment, so the question is ‘why are some experiencing these deficits and not others?’

“What we aim to do in this study is identify those patients at a time when a proactive intervention might prevent permanent treatment-induced cognitive deficits.”

As part of the study, Dr Cole and colleagues will collect cerebrospinal fluid and genomic DNA from 450 paediatric ALL patients at nine sites that form part of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute ALL Consortium.

They will explore if there could be genetic or inherited factors related to oxidative stress and damage that contribute to cognitive defects brought on by treatment.

This research follows work undertaken by Dr Cole almost 20 years ago, when he and colleagues identified biomarkers which indicate neuro-inflammation, oxidative damage and other changes.



Source: Rutgers Cancer Institute


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