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Neurocognitive Outcomes in Survivors of Childhood Leukemia with Down Syndrome

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Lisa Jacola, PhD
Grant Type: 
Psychosocial Grants
Year Awarded: 
Type of Childhood Cancer: 
Leukemia, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Project Description: 


Many survivors of childhood leukemia have problems with attention and learning after completing therapy that cause difficulty in school and at home. Survivors are monitored with cognitive testing that starts during therapy and continues after therapy in order to identify these problems early. Researchers have studied the results of this testing to learn which children are at greatest risk for problems and have designed interventions to will slow down or eliminate problems. 

Children with Down syndrome (DS) have a very high risk for leukemia when compared to children without DS. Children with DS also have special needs before they are diagnosed and treated for cancer. We think that these preexisting special needs make children with DS-leukemia vulnerable to worse problems with thinking and learning after treatment. Unfortunately, we don't know if this is true because children with DS are not included in cognitive studies of cancer survivors. 

Project Goal 

We want to use a different approach to cognitive testing to understand how leukemia and leukemia treatment affects thinking and learning in leukemia patients with DS. Our test approach is designed to be appropriate for children with special needs. Results from this first study may lead to larger studies that may tell us what to expect with regard to cognitive abilities in leukemia survivors with DS after completing therapy and help us to discover ways to help leukemia survivors with DS to best develop new learning and skills, in the same way that we have helped childhood cancer survivors without DS.

"The Psychosocial Launch Grant award offers an excellent opportunity to learn from my expert mentorship team and to continue developing my research program focused on improving neurobehavioral and quality of life outcomes in survivors of childhood cancer. Results from this project will provide a foundation for future studies that may impact frontline therapy and survivorship care in a vulnerable and understudied population." -- Lisa Jacola

Co-funded by: 
Northwestern Mutual Foundation