Background: The MRC UKALLXI trial tested the efficacy of different central nervous system (CNS) directed therapies in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). To evaluate morbidity 555/1826 randomised children underwent prospective psychological evaluations. Full Scale, verbal and performance IQs were measured at 5 months, 3 years and 5 years. Scores were compared in; (1) all patients (n = 555) versus related controls (n = 311), (2) low-risk children (presenting white cell count (WCC) < 50 × 10(9)/l) randomised to intrathecal methotrexate (n = 197) versus intrathecal and high-dose intravenous methotrexate (HDM) (n = 202), and (3) high-risk children (WCC ≥ 50 × 10(9)/l, age ≥ 2 years) randomised to HDM (n = 79) versus cranial irradiation (n = 77).
Results: There were no significant differences in IQ scores between the treatment arms in either low- or high-risk groups. Despite similar scores at baseline, results at 3 and 5 years showed a significant reduction of between 3.6 and 7.3 points in all three IQ scores in all patient groups compared to controls (P < 0.002) with a higher proportion of children with IQs < 80 in the patient groups (13% vs. 5% at 3 years p = 0.003).
Conclusion: Children with ALL are at risk of CNS morbidity, regardless of the mode of CNS-directed therapy. Further work needs to identify individuals at high-risk of adverse CNS outcomes.
Trial registration: ISRCTN: ISRCTN16757172.