Brain volume and cognitive function in adult survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia
The survival rate for childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is greater than 80%. However, many of these survivors develop long-term chronic health conditions, with a relatively common late effect being neurocognitive dysfunction. Although neurocognitive impairments have decreased in frequency and severity as treatment has evolved, there is a subset of survivors in the current treatment era that are especially vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of ALL and its treatment. Additionally, little is known about long-term brain development as survivors mature into adulthood. A recent study by Zeller et al. compared neurocognitive function and brain volume in 130 adult survivors of childhood ALL to 130 healthy adults matched on age and sex. They identified the caudate as particularly sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy. We discuss the implications and limitations of this study, including how their findings support the concept of individual vulnerability to ALL and its treatment.