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Childhood cancer survivors show sustained benefit from common ADHD medication
Date:9/13/2010

ical approaches. Earlier research from Conklin and her colleagues found only about half of young cancer survivors benefit from methylphenidate. Also, Conklin said many parents are reluctant to use the drug and some survivors may not be good candidates due to medical or other reasons. "We are moving forward with research into new strategies to benefit more survivors and their families," she said.

This study focused on young survivors of brain tumors and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Their cancer treatment included surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy targeting the central nervous system. Those treatments and other factors, including a patient's age at treatment, are linked to risk of later attention, memory and processing speed problems that make learning difficult. Such troubles can reverberate through life and affect a survivor's ability to hold a job and live independently.

Although methylphenidate has been used successfully for decades to treat ADHD in healthy children, Conklin said that was no guarantee the drug would benefit children whose symptoms followed a cancer diagnosis. Excluded from this study were children who had ADHD before their cancer was found.

After a year of methylphenidate, young cancer survivors scored better on tests of sustained attention. Parent, teacher and survivor ratings of attention all improved. Parental ratings of social skills and behavior problems also documented that survivors had benefited. The group included 35 brain tumor and 33 ALL survivors.

In contrast, only parental ratings of attention and social skills improved during the same period for a similar group of survivors not taking medication. The group included 31 brain tumor and 23 ALL survivors.

Academic skills measured by completion of math, reading and spelling problems were not significantly better in either group. Conklin said that might reflect the study design, which did not assess changes in executive aspects of
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Contact: Summer Freeman
summer.freeman@stjude.org
901-595-3061
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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