Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Abstract of the Day: Ritalin in Childhood Cancer Survivors

Mulhern RK, Khan RB, Kaplan S, Helton S, Christensen R, Bonner M, Brown R, Xiong X, Wu S, Gururangan S, Reddick WE. Short-term efficacy of methylphenidate: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial among survivors of childhood cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2004 Dec 1; 22(23): 4743-51.

Division of Behavioral Medicine, Department of Hematology/Oncology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105-2794, USA.

PURPOSE: Children surviving acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and malignant brain tumors (BTs) have a higher incidence of attention and learning problems in school than do their healthy peers. The present study tests the hypothesis that the psychostimulant methylphenidate (MPH) improves cognitive and social functioning among these patients. PATIENTS AND METHODS: We report on 83 long-term survivors of ALL and BT identified as having attentional deficits on behavioral testing and parent or teacher report, and problems with academic achievement. The 47 male and 36 female patients ranged from 0.6 to 14.3 years (median, 5.4 years) of age at diagnosis and 6.7 to 17.9 years (median, 11.9 years) of age at participation. The patients (40 ALL, 43 BT) participated in a randomized, double-blind, 3-week home cross-over trial of placebo (bid), low-dose MPH (0.3 mg/kg; maximum dose, 10 mg bid), and moderate-dose MPH (0.6 mg/kg; maximum dose, 20 mg bid). The primary end points were weekly teacher and parent reports on the Conners' Rating Scales and Social Skills Rating System. RESULTS: Compared to placebo, significant improvement with MPH was reported by teachers and parents on the Conners' Rating Scales and by teachers on the Social Skills Rating System. However, no consistent advantage of moderate dose over low dose was observed. Of those participating, 66 (79.5%) of the 83 patients continued on best clinical management. CONCLUSION: Treatment with MPH can at least temporarily reduce some attentional and social deficits among survivors of childhood ALL and BT. Long-term follow-up will reveal those subsets of patients who are more likely to benefit from MPH.

PMID: 15570081 [PubMed - in process]

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