Cognitive and Imaging Differences After Proton and Photon Whole Brain Irradiation in a Preclinical Model

Tien T. Tang, Janice A. Zawaski, Shelli Kesler, Christine A. Beamish, Taeko Inoue, Emma C. Perez, Lawrence Bronk, Falk Poenisch, Tina M. Briere, Omaima M. Sabek, David R. Grosshans, M. Waleed Gaber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Compared with photon cranial radiation therapy (X-CRT), proton cranial radiation therapy (P-CRT) offers potential advantages in limiting radiation-induced sequalae in the treatment of pediatric brain tumors. This study aims to identify cognitive, functional magnetic resonance and positron emission tomography imaging markers and molecular differences between the radiation modalities.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: Juvenile rats received a single faction of 10 Gy (relative biological effectiveness-weighted dose) delivered with 6 MV X-CRT or at the midspread out Bragg peak of a 100 MeV P-CRT beam. At 3, 6, and 12 months post-CRT, executive function was measured using 5-choice serial reaction time task. At ∼12 months post-CRT, animals were imaged with 18F-Flurodeoxy-glucose positron emission tomography imaging followed by functional ex vivo magnetic resonance imaging and stained for markers of neuroinflammation.

RESULTS: Irradiated animals had cognitive impairment with a higher number of omissions and lower incorrect and premature responses compared with sham (P ≤ .05). The accuracy of the animals' X-CRT was less than that of sham (P ≤ .001). No significant difference in rates of cognitive change were found between the radiation modalities. At 12 months post-CRT, glucose metabolism was significantly higher than sham in X-CRT (P = .04) but not P-CRT. Using diffusion tensor imaging, P-CRT brains were found to have higher white matter volume and fiber lengths compared with sham (P < .03). Only X-CRT animals had higher apparent diffusion coefficient values compared with sham (P = .04). P-CRT animals had more connectomic changes compared with X-CRT. Correlative analysis identified several imaging features with cognitive performance. Furthermore, microgliosis (P < .05), astrogliosis (P < .01), and myelin thinning (P <.05) were observed in both radiation modalities, with X-CRT showing slightly more inflammation.

CONCLUSIONS: Both P-CRT and X-CRT lead to neurocognitive changes compared with sham. Although no significant difference was observed in neuroinflammation between the irradiated groups, differences were found in late-term glucose metabolism and brain connectome. Our results indicate that despite relative biological effectiveness weighting of the proton dose there are still differential effects which warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-564
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Animals
  • Brain/pathology
  • Cognition/radiation effects
  • Cranial Irradiation/adverse effects
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging/methods
  • Protons
  • Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Cognitive and Imaging Differences After Proton and Photon Whole Brain Irradiation in a Preclinical Model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this