Effects of radiotherapy on cognitive function in patients with low-grade glioma measured by the Folstein mini-mental state examination

Paul D. Brown, Jan C. Buckner, Judith R. O'Fallon, Nancy L. Iturria, Cerise A. Brown, Brian P. O'Neill, Bernd W. Scheithauer, Robert P. Dinapoli, Robert M. Arusell, Walter J. Curran, Ross Abrams, Edward G. Shaw

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189 Scopus citations


Purpose: To assess the neurocognitive effects of cranial radiotherapy on patients with low-grade gliomas, we analyzed cognitive performance data collected in a prospective, intergroup clinical trial. Methods: Patients included 203 adults with supratentorial low-grade gliomas randomly assigned to a lower dose (50.4 Gy in 28 fractions) or a higher dose (64.8 Gy in 36 fractions) of localized radiotherapy. Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores and neurologic function scores (NFS) at baseline and key evaluations were analyzed. Median follow-up was 7.4 years in 101 patients still alive. A change of more than three MMSE points was considered clinically significant. Results: In patients without tumor progression, significant deterioration from baseline occurred at years 1, 2, and 5 in 8.2%, 4.6%, and 5.3% of patients, respectively. Most patients with an abnormal baseline MMSE score (< 27) experienced significant increases. Baseline variables such as radiation dose, conformal versus conventional radiotherapy, number of radiation fields, age, sex, tumor size, NFS, seizures, and seizure medications did not predict cognitive function changes. Conclusion: In this population, most low-grade glioma patients maintained a stable neurocognitive status after focal radiotherapy as measured by the MMSE. Patients with an abnormal baseline MMSE were more likely to have an improvement in cognitive abilities than deterioration after receiving radiotherapy. Only a small percentage of patients had cognitive deterioration after radiotherapy. However, more discriminating neurocognitive assessment tools may identify cognitive decline not apparent with the use of the MMSE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2519-2524
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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