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J Hematol Oncol. 2011 Oct 13;4:42. doi: 10.1186/1756-8722-4-42.

The impact of therapy for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia on intelligence quotients; results of the risk-stratified randomized central nervous system treatment trial MRC UKALL XI.

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  • 1Department of Haematology, The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow, UK.



The MRC UKALLXI trial tested the efficacy of different central nervous system (CNS) directed therapies in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). To evaluate morbidity 555/1826 randomised children underwent prospective psychological evaluations. Full Scale, verbal and performance IQs were measured at 5 months, 3 years and 5 years. Scores were compared in; (1) all patients (n = 555) versus related controls (n = 311), (2) low-risk children (presenting white cell count (WCC) < 50 × 10(9)/l) randomised to intrathecal methotrexate (n = 197) versus intrathecal and high-dose intravenous methotrexate (HDM) (n = 202), and (3) high-risk children (WCC ≥ 50 × 10(9)/l, age ≥ 2 years) randomised to HDM (n = 79) versus cranial irradiation (n = 77).


There were no significant differences in IQ scores between the treatment arms in either low- or high-risk groups. Despite similar scores at baseline, results at 3 and 5 years showed a significant reduction of between 3.6 and 7.3 points in all three IQ scores in all patient groups compared to controls (P < 0.002) with a higher proportion of children with IQs < 80 in the patient groups (13% vs. 5% at 3 years p = 0.003).


Children with ALL are at risk of CNS morbidity, regardless of the mode of CNS-directed therapy. Further work needs to identify individuals at high-risk of adverse CNS outcomes.



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