Leukemia itself, not just side effects related to its treatment, may increase the risk for long-term problems with attention, organization and other neurocognitive skills in survivors of the most common childhood cancer, according to recent St. Jude research.
Scientists analyzed the cerebrospinal fluid of 235 St. Jude children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Even before treatment began, some patients’ fluid contained proteins that suggested injury to cells that make up the brain’s white matter. These cells help the brain function correctly.
“This was a surprise. Until now, we had not suspected that leukemia, by itself, or the inflammatory response to the disease, may lead to changes that leave ALL survivors at risk for long-term problems with executive functioning and processing speed,” said Kevin Krull, PhD, of St. Jude Epidemiology and Cancer Control. He and his colleagues also found that genetic variation may make patients vulnerable to such treatment-related problems.
The study appeared in the journal JAMA Oncology.