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New Study: Radiation-associated Cognitive Decline Prevented in First Animal Model of Glioma

11/20/18

Treating brain tumors comes at a steep cost, especially for children. More than half of patients who endure radiation therapy for brain tumors experience irreversible cognitive decline, a side effect that has particularly damaging consequences for younger patients.

In a new study published in the journal eLife, University of California, San Francisco scientists confirmed that it's the immune system's response to radiation therapy -- not the brain tumor -- that causes cognitive decline. Furthermore, in the study's mouse model, researchers showed that a drug that temporarily suppresses a key component of the brain's immune system can prevent this radiation-associated cognitive decline.

"Radiation treatment has a significant effect on cognitive function in both children and adults," says Nalin Gupta, MD, PhD, chief of pediatric neurological surgery at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and co-senior author of the new study. "However, age plays a major role and radiation has a much more severe effect on young kids."

Gupta's research was supported in part by a recent Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Institute Award.

To figure out why radiation therapy leads to cognitive impairment and whether the immune system could be prevented from damaging parts of the brain, Gupta partnered with UCSF neuroscientist Susanna Rosi, PhD, an expert on the neurological effects of radiation who previously developed mouse models to study how cosmic radiation affects astronauts.

Click here to read more about the study and why it holds profound clinical significance for children with brain tumors.