Concerns about long-term methotrexate (MTX) neurotoxicity in the 1990s led to modifications in intrathecal (IT) therapy, leucovorin rescue, and frequency of systemic MTX administration in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In this study, neurocognitive outcomes and neuroradiologic evidence of leukoencephalopathy were compared in children treated with intense central nervous system (CNS)-directed therapy (P9605) versus those receiving fewer CNS-directed treatment days during intensive consolidation (P9201). A total of 66 children from 16 Pediatric Oncology Group institutions with "standard-risk" acute lymphoblastic leukemia, 1.00 to 9.99 years at diagnosis, without evidence of CNS leukemia at diagnosis were enrolled on ACCL0131: 28 from P9201 and 38 from P9605. Magnetic resonance imaging scans and standard neuropsychological tests were performed ≥2.6 years after the end of treatment. Significantly more P9605 patients developed leukoencephalopathy compared with P9201 patients (68%, 95% confidence interval 49%-83% vs. 22%, 95% confidence interval 5%-44%; P=0.001) identified as late as 7.7 years after the end of treatment. Overall, 40% of patients scored <85 on either Verbal or Performance IQ. Children on both studies had significant attention problems, but P9605 children scored below average on more neurocognitive measures than those treated on P9201 (82%, 14/17 measures vs. 24%, 4/17 measures). This supports ongoing concerns about intensive MTX exposure as a major contributor to CNS late effects.
- Cognitive late effects
- Methotrexate leukoencephalopathy
- Unprotected intrathecal methotrexate (ITM)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health