Researchers evaluate scholastic achievement in pediatric brain tumor survivors 

By Reagan Malenius

At the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, Raymond Mailhot, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor in the department of radiation oncology at the University of Florida, presented data from his research evaluating scholastic achievement in pediatric brain tumor survivors. 

Raymond Mailhot, M.D., M.P.H.

Cancer, surgery, systemic therapy and radiation can cause cognitive deficits, such as a loss in IQ. Noticing a lack of information on school performance for pediatric brain tumor survivors, Mailhot sought to link scholastic performance with clinical data to help patients and caregivers understand what future academic success may look like for survivors. 

“In patient rooms, the discussion about school performance can be abstract, and parents wanted to know if their children would be academically successful,” said Mailhot, a member of the UF Health Cancer Center’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences research program. 

To investigate, there was an immediate challenge: accessing scholastic data. Mailhot’s research required academic data from healthy controls, in this case students enrolled in school who were not diagnosed with cancer. Mailhot worked with legal counsel on consents and obtained Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCAT) scores, grades, accommodations and rates of promotion in compliance with data privacy guidelines. 

“Educational data intrinsically triggers action,” he said. “Unsatisfactory performance on state tests results in students being held back or even not receiving a standard diploma.” 

Mailhot’s research showed it was possible to link patient-level scholastic and clinical data. The study included 50 survivors and 150 controls matched by age, grade, district and eligibility for free or reduced lunch. In the small sample, survivors had twice the odds of being held back as healthy controls and about twice the odds of receiving an unsatisfactory grade on their standardized math exam. 

“I hope to add scholastic performance as a meaningful patient-centered outcome and metric for childhood cancer survivors,” Mailhot said. 

Funding for the study came from the Live Like Bella® Pediatric Cancer Research Initiative.  

Read the abstract.

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