New research gives unique insights into the mechanism of how childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and chemotherapy affect brain function. The findings of the study are published in the journal Brain Connectivity.
The findings from comparative studies of structural and functional connectome organization, showing that connectome disruption is associated with delayed neurodevelopment.
‘Cancer survivors who are diagnosed with ALL at a younger age and received increased chemotherapy is associated with a higher risk of delayed neurodevelopment.’
In the article entitled "Brain Network Connectivity and Executive Function in Long-Term Survivors of Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia," Kevin Krull, PhD, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN and a team of researchers from St. Jude's and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston reported poor global connectivity and lower information exchange and network integration in study participants with executive dysfunction compared to those without which is one of the most consistently observed deficits observed in this population.
The study included 161 long-term survivors of ALL who were 8-21 years of age.
The younger the age at which the children had been diagnosed with ALL and the more chemotherapy they had received correlated with increased risk for impaired connectome efficiency and poorer global information processing.
"The 10-year cure rate for ALL is approaching over 90% in children," states Christopher Pawela, Ph.D., Co-Editor-in-Chief, Brain Connectivity.
"Long-term cognitive impairment is a serious issue facing ALL survivors, and there has been a lack of understanding of the mechanism of how ALL and chemotherapy affect brain function. Dr. Krull and his colleagues have designed a very large follow-up study of ALL survivors investigating brain functional changes after a cure is obtained. They establish for the first time using brain imaging that age of diagnosis and the length of chemotherapeutic treatment have compounding maladaptive effects on the brain networks involved in executive cognitive function."