Arkansas Children's Research Institute has received a $2.5 million federal grant to study long-term side effects of treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer.
The grant from the National Institutes of Health will be used to "pinpoint the moments during treatment that may result in long-term neurocognitive issues," Arkansas Children's said in a news release. Those issues can cause diminished ability to concentrate, poor memory and shorter attention spans, affecting patients' academic and professional success for the rest of their lives.
Researcher Ellen van der Plas, an associate professor of hematology/oncology at UAMS, is leading the five-year study.
“Cancer casts such a long shadow,” van der Plas said in the release. Her goal is for cancer survivors to “have the same quality of life as their peers. We want to make sure they’re not facing a lifelong burden.”
The study will use non-invasive neuroimaging scans to examine patients during their first year of treatment. Children in the study will also interact with an MRI simulator, which helps prepare them for procedures by having them explore the MRI tunnel and sounds in a gradual and playful manner.
“We prepare them through play,” van der Plas said. “And we partner with child life specialists to help kids feel at ease with the scanner procedures.”
Researchers are scheduled to start recruiting study participants this spring.