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J Clin Oncol. 1991 Jan;9(1):145-51.

Comparison of neuropsychologic functioning and clinical indicators of neurotoxicity in long-term survivors of childhood leukemia given cranial radiation or parenteral methotrexate: a prospective study.

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Department of Hematology-Oncology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38101.


We prospectively compared neuropsychologic functioning and clinical indicators of neurotoxicity in 49 consecutive childhood leukemia patients in long-term continuous complete remission (CR) who had received two different regimens of CNS prophylaxis by random assignment. Twenty-three patients were treated with 1,800 cGy cranial radiation and intrathecal methotrexate (RT group) and 26 with parenteral methotrexate only (MTX group). Over half of the RT group had somnolence syndrome, and four developed cerebral calcifications late in their clinical course. Abnormal electroencephalograms (EEGs) were seen in 15 patients in the MTX group, and six had early, transient white-matter hypodensities apparent on computed tomographic (CT) scans. Mean scores on standard tests of intelligence and academic achievement, administered after remission induction and again at a median of 6 years after treatment cessation, did not differ significantly between the two groups. However, statistically significant decreases in overall and verbal intelligence quotients (IQs) and in arithmetic achievement were found within both treatment groups. Sixteen of 26 in the MTX group and 14 of the 23 in the RT group had clinically important decreases (greater than or equal to 15 points) on one or more neuropsychologic measures. These changes did not correlate with findings on CT scans, EEGs, or other clinical signs of neurotoxicity. We conclude that 1,800 cGy cranial radiation and parenteral methotrexate, as used in this study, are associated with comparable decreases in neuropsychologic function.

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