Researching Biomarkers in Pediatric ALL Patients to Prevent Cognitive Damage

Researchers at Rutgers Cancer Institute are looking at biomarkers in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients to determine how to prevent neurocognitive impairment from standard treatment.

Cancer treatments can cause permanent deterioration of brain functions leading to impairments in attention, concentration, memory, and learning. As a result, these changes can lead to challenges with school, obtaining future employment and overall quality of life into adulthood, even though cancer treatment may have been successful. With the aid of a $3.4 million, five-year National Institutes of Health grant (R01CA220568), Peter D. Cole, MD, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology and the Embrace Kids Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and colleagues are exploring an approach that would detect these changes among children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) early during treatment.

As part of this current study, cerebrospinal fluid and genomic DNA will be collected from 450 pediatric ALL patients accrued through nine sites that are part of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute ALL Consortium. Cole and collaborators from other centers are exploring whether there could be genetic or inherited factors related to oxidative stress and damage that contribute to cognitive defects brought on by treatment.

“We anticipate the results of this study will provide a foundation to improve the safety of cancer drugs and potentially guide clinical trials of protective interventions aimed at reducing the permanent side effects brought on by curative treatment for leukemia,” Cole notes.

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