Cognitive function and social attainment in adult survivors of retinoblastoma: a report from the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study

Cancer. 2015 Jan 1;121(1):123-31. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28924. Epub 2014 Nov 24.


Background: Retinoblastoma has a 5-year survival rate exceeding 95%, yet little is known about long-term functional outcomes for these patients.

Methods: Sixty-nine adult survivors of retinoblastoma (mean age, 33 years; mean years post-diagnosis, 31) who had enrolled in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study completed clinical cognitive evaluations and questionnaires assessing adult social attainment. Scores on all cognitive measures were converted to z-scores (M = 0, SD = 1) using age-adjusted normative data. Multivariable linear regression analyses, adjusted for age at diagnosis and disease laterality, were used to examine associations between disease and treatment exposures and cognitive outcomes.

Results: Retinoblastoma survivors performed within normative expectations across most cognitive domains. In multivariable models, adjusted for disease laterality, survivors diagnosed at ≤1 year of age performed significantly better on measures of short-term verbal memory (β = 0.87, P<.01), long-term verbal memory (β = 0.66, P = .02), verbal learning (β = 0.67, P = .02), and verbal reasoning abilities (β = 0.79, P<.01) compared with survivors diagnosed at >1 year of age. In multivariable models, restricted to bilateral survivors and adjusted for age at diagnosis, whole brain radiation exposure was significantly associated with poorer performance on tasks of short-term verbal memory (β = -0.003, P = .03) and long-term verbal memory (β = -0.003, P = .01). Reported social attainment was consistent with adult developmental expectations.

Conclusions: Adult survivors of retinoblastoma demonstrate few cognitive or social attainment deficits decades following diagnosis and treatment. Findings suggest the potential for neural reorganization following early insult to the visual system as well as vulnerability of the developing brain to low dose radiation exposure. Early intervention and rehabilitation will be important for these patients.

Keywords: cognition; late effects; retinoblastoma; social attainment; survivorship.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retinoblastoma / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Young Adult