St. Jude scientists find that radiation and high-dose chemotherapy damage is usually transient but can mimic cancer and prompt needless additional treatment
Irradiation and high-dose chemotherapy used to treat two types of brain tumors--medulloblastoma and supratentorial PNET--can cause changes in the brains white matter that look like tumors when seen on MRI scans. This finding, by a team of investigators led by St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, is published in the Nov. 15 issue of Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO). White matter is the part of the brain composed of nerves that are covered in a pearly-white sheath. Much of the cerebral cortex, where high level thinking occurs, is made of white matter.
The study demonstrates that this damage, called white matter lesions (WMLs), can be mistaken for recurrent cancer, prompting physicians to treat the patient aggressively--and needlessly--with more radiation and chemotherapy. "Irradiation and high-dose chemotherapy are treatments we want to use as sparingly as possible," said Amar Gajjar, M.D., member of Hematology-Oncology and director of Neuro-oncology at St. Jude. "This new information represents an important caution sign for physicians who otherwise might assume that WMLs are actually tumors that need further treatment."
Bonnie Cameron | EurekAlert!
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