White matter compromise predicts poor intellectual outcome in survivors of pediatric low-grade glioma

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While the impact of cranial radiation on white matter following treatment for pediatric brain tumor has been the focus of many recent studies, the effect of treatment in the absence of radiation has received little attention. The relations between white matter and cognitive outcome have not been explored in patients who have undergone radiation-free treatment. As most patients treated without cranial radiation survive long after their diagnosis, it is critical to identify factors that may impact structural and neurocognitive outcomes.


Using diffusion tensor imaging, we examined white matter structure in 32 patients with pediatric low-grade glioma (PLGG) (19 with subtentorial location and 13 with supratentorial location) and 32 healthy participants. Indices of intellectual functioning were also evaluated. Radiation was not used to treat this cohort, aged 8–19 years.


We detected evidence of deficits in IQ and compromised supra- and subtentorial white matter in patients relative to healthy children (P < .05). Compromise of supratentorial white matter mediated the impact of treatment for PLGG on IQ. Greater white matter compromise was observed in patients who presented without multiple symptoms, were treated with biopsy/no surgery, had positive neurofibromatosis 1 status, were younger age at diagnosis, and whose parents had lower levels of education (P < .05).


Our findings provide evidence of increased risk of intellectual and white matter compromise in patients treated for PLGG without radiation. We identify a neural origin of cognitive deficit useful for predicting outcome and mitigating long-term adverse effects in pediatric brain tumor patients treated without cranial radiation.

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