Proton therapy may reduce cognitive deficits after radiotherapy among brain tumor survivors, although current data are limited to retrospective comparisons between historical cohorts. The authors compared intelligence quotient scores within a case-matched cohort of children with medulloblastoma treated with proton radiation (PRT) or photon radiation (XRT) over the same time period.
Among 88 consecutive patients with standard-risk medulloblastoma treated with PRT or XRT at 2 institutions from 2000 to 2009, 50 were matched 1:1 (25 with PRT and 25 with XRT) according to age, gender, date of diagnosis, histology, radiation boost, and craniospinal irradiation dose. One-way analyses of variance were performed to compare the Full-Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) and associated index scores between the 2 cohorts.
Neurocognitive data were available for 37 survivors (17 with PRT and 20 with XRT) from the matched cohort. The mean age was 8.5 years (SD, 4.14 years). The median follow-up was 5.3 years (range, 1.0-11.4 years) and 4.6 years (range, 1.1-11.2 years) for the PRT and XRT cohorts, respectively (P = .193). Patients treated with PRT had significantly higher mean FSIQ (99.6 vs 86.2; P = .021), verbal (105.2 vs 88.6; P = .010), and nonverbal scores (103.1 vs 88.9; P = .011) than the XRT-treated cohort. Differences in processing speed (82.9 vs 77.2; P = .331) and working memory (97.0 vs 92.7; P = .388) were not statistically significant.
Radiotherapy-associated cognitive effects appear to be more attenuated after proton therapy. Comprehensive prospective studies are needed to appropriately evaluate the neurocognitive advantages of proton therapy.

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