Cognitive functioning after hematopoietic cell transplantation for hematologic malignancy: Results from a prospective longitudinal study

Noha Sharafeldin, Alysia Bosworth, Sunita K. Patel, Yanjun Chen, Emily Morse, Molly Mather, Canlan Sun, Liton Francisco, Stephen J. Forman, F. Lennie Wong, Smita Bhatia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Purpose Cognitive impairment is well-recognized after myeloablative allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). However, cognitive functioning after reduced-intensity allogeneic or autologous HCT remains unclear. Methods A total of 477 HCT recipients (236 autologous, 128 reduced-intensity allogeneic, 113 myeloablative allogeneic) underwent standardized neuropsychologic testing before HCT and at 6 months and 1, 2, and 3 years after HCT. Ninety-nine frequency-matched healthy controls underwent testing at commensurate time points. Primary outcomes of the study were practice effect-adjusted domainspecific T scores and global deficit scores. Piecewise generalized estimating equation models were used to compare groups and to identify associated variables and post-HCT trends of cognitive impairment. Results Median age was 52 years (range, 18 to 74 years) for HCT recipients and 55 years (range, 19 to 73 years) for controls. Post-HCT scores were comparable between controls and autologous and reduced-intensity HCT recipients. Myeloablative HCT recipients had significantly lower (P > .001) post-HCT scores than controls for executive function, verbal speed, processing speed, auditory memory, and fine motor dexterity. Pre-HCT to 6 months post-HCT scores did not change after reduced-intensity HCT but declined significantly for fine motor dexterity (P > .001) after myeloablative HCT. However, pre-HCT to 3 years post-HCT scores declined significantly (P < .003) in reduced-intensity HCT recipients for executive function, verbal fluency, and working memory. Older age, male sex, and lower education, income, and cognitive reserve were associated with post-HCT cognitive impairment. At 3 years post-HCT, global cognitive impairment was present in 18.7% of autologous and 35.7% of allogeneic HCT recipients. Conclusion Myeloablative allogeneic HCT recipients showed significant cognitive decline compared with healthy controls. Reduced-intensity allogeneic HCT recipients showed evidence of delayed decline. Cognitive functioning in autologous HCT recipients generally was spared. The study identified vulnerable subpopulations that could benefit from targeted interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-475
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 10 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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