Effect of radiation therapy on cerebral cortical thickness in glioma patients: Treatment-induced thinning of the healthy cortex

Nagtegaal, Steven H J, David, Szabolcs, Snijders, Tom J, Philippens, Marielle E P, Leemans, Alexander, Verhoeff, Joost J C


Neuro-oncology advances 2 (1),


Background: With overall survival of brain tumors improving, radiation induced brain injury is becoming an increasing issue. One of the effects of radiation therapy (RT) is thinning of the cerebral cortex, which could be one of the factors contributing to cognitive impairments after treatment. In healthy brain, cortex thickness varies between 1 and 4.5 mm. In this study, we assess the effect of RT on the thickness of the cerebral cortex and relate the changes to the local dose.

Methods: We identified 28 glioma patients with optimal scan quality. Clinical CTs and MRIs at baseline and 1 year post-RT were collected and coregistered. The scans were processed via an automated image processing pipeline, which enabled measuring changes of the cortical thickness, which were related to local dose.

Results: Three areas were identified where significant dose-dependent thinning occurred, with thinning rates of 5, 6, and 26 μm/Gy after 1 year, which corresponds to losses of 5.4%, 7.2%, and 21.6% per 30 Gy per year. The first area was largely located in the right inferior parietal, supramarginal, and superior parietal regions, the second in the right posterior cingulate and paracentral regions, and the third almost completely in the right lateral orbital frontal region.

Conclusions: We have identified three areas susceptible to dose-dependent cortical thinning after radiation therapy. Should future prospective studies conclude that irradiation of these areas lead to cognitive decline, they need to be spared in order to prevent this debilitating consequence of treatment.