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Neurocognitive Outcomes Following Proton Beam Radiation Therapy for Treatment of

Lisa Schum Kahalley

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
This candidate, Lisa Schum Kahalley, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Section of Psychology, Department of Pediatrics, at Baylor College of Medicine, with a secondary appointment in the Texas Children's Cancer Center. The proposed career development award outlines critical mentoring, training, and research experiences to prepare Dr. Kahalley for an independent research program in neurocognitive late effects research. The mentoring committee supporting this application consists of experienced researchers and clinicians in pediatric neuropsychology (Doug Ris, PhD), neuro-oncology (Fatih Okcu, MD, Murali Chintagumpala, MD), and longitudinal statistics (Paras Mehta, PhD). They will oversee this candidate's specialized training in neuropsychology, longitudinal research methods, and scientific writing and grantsmanship to prepare her to transition into neurocognitive outcome research and research independence. The proposed research plan will provide applied experience in these specific areas of focus. Brain tumor survivors are at risk for lasting treatment-related cognitive impairment. Interest in the use of proton beam radiation therapy (PBRT) for treatment of pediatric brain tumor continues to grow as many believe this technique could improve survival rates while also preserving quality of life outcomes. Many herald the clinical potential of PBRT to spare cognitive functioning by minimizing damage to healthy brain tissue without sacrificing disease control. Still, there are no published reports to date of cognitive outcomes following PBRT for pediatric brain tumor. This proposal includes two studies, one cross-sectional and one longitudinal, designed to maximize the empirical yield for this 5-year funding period. Study 1 is a prospective, longitudinal examination of neurocognitive outcomes and changes over time among patients treated for pediatric brain tumors with PBRT versus surgery alone. Study 2 is a cross-sectional comparison of neurocognitive outcomes between survivors of pediatric brain tumor previously treated with PBRT versus conventional radiation therapy. This proposal is consistent with NCI's strategic objectives to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors, promote safe and equitable cancer care, and foster informed decision making. Results will have clinical value, providing a timely initial report of neurocognitive functioning and comparison between treatment modalities that will be a notable addition to the sparse existent literature in PBRT late effects. Remarkable advantages of this research environment will facilitate the successful execution of these studies. In particular, Texas Children's Cancer Center has one of the largest pediatric neuro-oncology programs in the country with access to one of the few proton therapy centers in the US currently open for the treatment of pediatric brain tumor.

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