05| Pediatric Cancer: The Role of a Neuropsychologist – A Conversation With Dr. Christine Trask (Part 1)

Today is Part 1 of our interview with Christine Trask, Ph.D., ABPP-CN, a pediatric neuropsychologist with extensive clinical experience assessing children with various types of cancer.

A pdf of the transcript for this episode is available here.

Topics Covered

  • Differences between training in adult neuropsychology and training in pediatric neuropsychology
  • Subspecialty board certification in pediatric neuropsychology: the process of becoming board certified and when it might be a useful career goal
  • Basic biology for the most common cancer subtypes in children (brain cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia)
  • Risk factors and early signs/symptoms of pediatric cancer, including a typical medical workup for a child with early symptoms
  • Differences between adult brain tumors and childhood brain tumors
  • Cancer treatments: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – advantages and disadvantages of each intervention approach, including implications for mortality and morbidity
  • Similarities and differences with respect to side effects of radiation and chemotherapy
  • The clinical interview for a pediatric cancer referral
  • How to talk about cancer diagnosis and prognosis to children of different ages and developmental levels

About Christine

Dr. Trask earned her Ph.D. from St. Louis University.  She started with a focus in behavioral medicine and then transferred to child clinical/pediatric neuropsychology.  She did her internship with Dr. Donna Palumbo at the University of Rochester Medical Center and her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan with Drs. Bruno Giordani and Stan Berent.  She worked in private practice in Rhode Island until being asked to develop pediatric neuropsychology for Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital.  She is currently the director of outpatient pediatric neuropsychology services at Lifespan (RI Health System) and holds an appointment in the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Selected References

Cheung, Y. T., & Krull, K. R. (2015). Neurocognitive outcomes in long-term survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia treated on contemporary treatment protocols: A systematic review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews53, 108-120.

Hoag, J., Kupst, M., Briere, M. Mabbott, D. Elkin, T.D., Trask, C., Isenberg, J., Holm, S., Ambler, C., & Strother, D.R. (2014).  Feasibility of conducting long-term follow-up of children and infants treated for CNS tumors on the same cooperative group clinical trial protocol.  The Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings (JOCS). 21, 136-143.

Hunger, S. P., & Mullighan, C. G. (2015). Acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children. New England Journal of Medicine373(16), 1541-1552.

Iyer, N. S., Balsamo, L. M., Bracken, M. B., Kadan-Lottick, N. S. (2015).  Chemotherapy-only treatment effects on long-term neurocognitive functioning in childhood ALL survivors: a review and meta-analysis.  Blood.

Kahalley, L. S., Conklin, H. M., Tyc, V. L., Hudson, M. M., Wilson, S. J., Wu, S., … & Hinds, P. S. (2013). Slower processing speed after treatment for pediatric brain tumor and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Psycho‐Oncology22(9), 1979-1986.

Liu, W., Cheung, Y. T., Conklin, H. M., Jacola, L. M., Srivastava, D., Nolan, V. G., … & Pui, C. H. (2018). Evolution of neurocognitive function in long-term survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia treated with chemotherapy only. Journal of Cancer Survivorship12(3), 398-406.

Trask, C.L., Greene Welch, J., Manley, P., Jelalian, E., & Schwartz, C.L. (2009).  Parental needs for information related to neurocognitive late effects from pediatric cancer and its treatment.  Pediatric Blood and Cancer, 52, 273-279.

Whitlow PG, Caparas M, Cullen P, Trask, C, Schulte F, Embry L, Nagarajan, R, Johnston DL, Sung, L. (2015).  Strategies to improve success of pediatric cancer cooperative group quality of life studies:  A report from the Children’s Oncology Group. Qual Life Research, 24, 1297-1301.