BACKGROUND: Proton therapy (PT), frequently utilised to treat paediatric brain tumour (PBT) patients, eliminates exit dose and minimises dose to healthy tissues that theoretically can mitigate treatment-related effects including cognitive deficits. As clinical outcome data are emerging, we aimed to systematically review current evidence of cognitive changes following PT of PBT.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We searched PubMed and Scopus electronic databases to identify eligible reports on cognitive changes following PT of PBT according to PRISMA guidelines. Reports were extracted for information on demographics and cognitive outcomes. Then, they were systematically reviewed based on three themes: (1) comparison with photon therapy, (2) comparison with baseline cognitive measures, to population normative mean or radiotherapy-naïve PBT patients and (3) effects of dose distribution to cognition.
RESULTS: Thirteen reports (median size (range): 70 (12-144)) were included. Four reports compared the cognitive outcome between PBT patients treated with proton to photon therapy and nine compared with baseline/normative mean/radiotherapy naïve from which two reported the effects of dose distribution. Reports found significantly poorer cognitive outcome among patients treated with photon therapy compared with proton therapy especially in general cognition and working memory. Craniospinal irradiation (CSI) was consistently associated with poorer cognitive outcome while focal therapy was associated with minor cognitive change/difference. In limited reports available, higher doses to the hippocampus and temporal lobes were implicated to larger cognitive change.
CONCLUSION: Available evidence suggests that PT causes less cognitive deficits compared with photon therapy. Children who underwent focal therapy with proton were consistently shown to have low risk of cognitive deficit suggesting the need for future studies to separate them from CSI. Evidence on the effect of dose distribution to cognition in PT is yet to mature.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.