Risk factors for speech and language impairments and long-term outcomes in survivors of childhood primary posterior fossa tumours

Professor Greig de Zubicaray
(Queensland University of Technology
Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation)

Over 60% of childhood brain cancers are located in the lower region of the brain known as the ‘posterior fossa’, which plays a key role in motor function, speech and language.

Aggressive treatment of posterior fossa tumours – as well as the tumours themselves – cause significant long-term complications to the core functions of this brain region.

As many as two out of every three children who survive posterior fossa tumours are left with significant speech and language impairments, which have life-long consequences for them and their families.

Despite this, little is known about the risk factors for developing these debilitating side effects.

The multidisciplinary team led by Professor de Zubicaray will use state-of-the-art neuroimaging equipment at the Herston Imaging Research Facility, combined with comprehensive clinical speech and language assessments, to:

• improve understanding of the long-term outcomes of posterior fossa tumours; and

• identify risk factors for the development of chronic speech and language impairments in these childhood brain cancer survivors.

This research project will provide important information for strategic treatment decisions, particularly in regard to precise surgical techniques and optimal therapeutic combinations. It may be possible to adjust these treatments so they have a reduced impact on the brain – and therefore on a child’s speech and language.

The ultimate, long-term goal, is improved treatment options, improved quality of life, and fewer life-long impairments for brain cancer survivors.

Associate Professor Katie McMahon – Queensland University of Technology, Deputy Director Herston  Imaging Research Facility

• CCABCR Postdoctoral Research Fellow Sonia Brownsett – Queensland University of Technology

Dr Martin Wood – Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Neurosurgeon

Dr Timothy Hassall – Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Oncologist, CCABCR Program Director

• Dr Wayne Nicolls – Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Oncologist

Professor Greig de Zubicaray – Queensland University of Technology, CCABCR Program Director, Neuropsychologist

• Dr Owen Lloyd – Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Neuropsychologist