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    Retinoblastoma Survivors Fare Well in Adulthood

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    The insult of early-in-life treatment for childhood retinoblastoma does not follow survivors into adulthood, according to researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Some three decades after diagnosis, the 69 survivors who participated in the study fell within the norm on measures of neurocognitive function and social attainment.1 Early diagnosis was the strongest indicator of success.

    Neurocognitive and social outcomes. While survivors were within normal limits on most measures, they scored above average in certain tasks, including nonverbal reasoning. But compared with similar-aged adults, they reported more problems with working memory and fine-motor dexterity needed for tasks like handwriting.

    Factors in adult findings.

    • Bilateral disease survivors did better on memory measures than those with unilateral disease, though this had little overall impact on adult functioning.
    • Age at diagnosis emerged as a powerful predictor of adult cognitive functioning, even offsetting the harmful effect of unilateral cranial radiation. Unilateral disease survivors diagnosed before their first birthday performed more than two-thirds of a standard deviation better on measures of verbal reasoning and memory than those diagnosed after one year.

    Senior author Kevin R. Krull, PhD, stressed the importance of early diagnosis. Dr. Krull is on the faculty of the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He said that the benefit is “likely due to more plasticity of the brain at that young age. Children who experience focal lateralized brain injury at a young age may recover better than those with a similar pattern of injury at an older age.”       

    —Miriam Karmel 

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    1 Brinkman TM et al. Cancer. Published online Nov. 24, 2014. doi:10.1002/cncr.28924.

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    Dr. Krull reports no related financial interests. The study was supported by a Cancer Center (CORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute and by ALSAC.

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