Background: Cancer survival comes at a price: pediatric cancer survivors bear a high risk for a wide range of cognitive difficulties. Therefore, interventions targeting these difficulties are required. The aim of the present clinical trial is to extend empirical evidence about efficacy of cognitive and physical training in pediatric cancer survivors. It is hypothesized that early cognitive and physical interventions affect the remediation of pediatric cancer survivors in terms of improved executive functions (primary outcome). Additional positive effects of cognitive and physical intervention to other areas such as memory and attention are expected (secondary outcome). Changes in cognitive performance are expected to be associated with structural and functional changes in the brain.
Methods: Overall, 150 pediatric cancer survivors and 50 matched controls will be included in this trial. The cancer survivors will be randomly assigned to either a computerized cognitive training, a physical training (exergaming) or a waiting control group. They will be assessed with neuropsychological tests, tests of sport motor performance and physical fitness before and after 8 weeks of training and again at a 3-months follow-up. Moreover, neuroimaging will be performed at each of the three time points to investigate the training impact on brain structure and function.
Discussion: With increasing cancer survival rates, evidence-based interventions are of particular importance. New insights into training-related plasticity in the developing brain will further help to develop tailored rehabilitation programs for pediatric cancer survivors.
Trial registration: KEK BE 196/15; KEK ZH 2015-0397; ICTRP NCT02749877 ; date of registration: 30.11.2016; date of first participant enrolment: .18.01.2017.
Keywords: Active video gaming; Brain tumor; Childhood cancer survivors; Physical exercise; Physical training; Working memory training.