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Publication Date

2009-07-24

Availability

UM campus only

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2008-06-05

First Committee Member

F. Daniel Armstrong - Committee Co-Chair

Second Committee Member

Alexandra Quittner - Committee Co-Chair

Third Committee Member

Bonnie E. Levin - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

Elizabeth Willen - Committee Member

Fifth Committee Member

Heather Henderson - Committee Member

Abstract

Nearly 80% of children treated for cancer are expected to survive, but not without cost. Survivors face unprecedented challenges associated with long-term consequences of treatment, also called late effects. Approximately half of children treated for cancer are at risk for experiencing cognitive late effects, which typically emerge several years post diagnosis. The nature and extent of cognitive late effects appear to be developmental and related to patient, disease, and treatment variables. However, the relationships between these variables is not well understood because there have been few prospective and longitudinal studies that report on the contributions of these variables over time. This dissertation examined the effects of patient, disease, and treatment variables, as well as their interactions over time on neurocognitive functioning in childhood cancer survivors. It comprises part of a large prospective, randomized clinical trial designed to examine changes in cognitive function over three years as a function of different levels of monitoring of school-based intervention based on individual educational plans (IEPs). This dissertation uniquely contributed a new measure (the Treatment Intensity Rating Scale) that was used to systematically classify treatment severity across different types of cancer and cancer treatments. Participants included 61 children ages 7 to 12 years at enrollment who were two to five years from completion of treatment for a brain tumor, leukemia, or lymphoma. Participants received yearly neuropsychological evaluations for a follow-up period of 3 years. Results of these evaluations were used to develop IEPs. Participants were randomized to have their IEPs monitored on a quarterly or annual basis for the duration of the study. Contrary to the progressive decline in neurocognitive functioning that is typically anticipated in pediatric cancer survivors, analyses revealed relative stability of performance on neurocognitive measures over time. Higher neurocognitive performance was noted in children whose IEPs were monitored more frequently versus less frequently. Results also supported gender-specific risk for late effects, with lower performance on select neurocognitive measures in females compared to males. Results of this study provide encouraging evidence of the positive effects of school-based interventions and their close monitoring. This has important implications for quality of life as these children survive well beyond childhood into adulthood.

Keywords

Pediatric Chronic Illness; Gender Differences; Working Memory; Processing Speed; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia; Neurodevelopmental Model; Linear Mixed Models; Pediatric Brain Tumors; Treatment Intensity; Chemotherapy; Cranial Radiation Therapy

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