We evaluated late neuropsychological toxicity in children treated for standard-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who were randomly assigned to receive either cranial radiation therapy (CRT) with double intrathecal (IT) chemotherapy or intensive triple IT chemotherapy (no CRT) as CNS-directed therapy.
Patients and Methods
Between 1996 and 2000, 164 children with standard-risk ALL treated on Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Consortium Protocol 95-01 were randomly assigned to receive either 18 Gy CRT delivered in twice daily fractions (0.9 Gy) with double IT therapy (methotrexate and cytarabine) or intensive triple IT drug (methotrexate, cytarabine and hydrocortisone) without CRT. Neuropsychological testing was completed at a median 6 years postdiagnosis for 79 children (CRT, n = 39; triple IT, n = 40), all of whom were in continuous complete remission.
Cognitive function for both groups was solidly in the average range, with no consistent group differences in basic cognitive skills. Children treated on the CRT plus double IT arm did, however, exhibit less fluent output and were less effective at modulating their behavior by parent report.
This randomized trial revealed only subtle differences 6 years after diagnosis between children who received CNS therapy as CRT plus double IT drug or as intensive triple IT drug. In most situations where comparable therapeutic efficacy can be achieved without CRT, it is preferable to do so. Where therapeutically necessary, however, CRT at lower doses may not add risk for significant neurotoxicity.