Hippocampal avoidance prophylactic cranial irradiation (HA-PCI) for small cell lung cancer reduces hippocampal atrophy compared to conventional PCI.



Reducing radiation dose to the hippocampus with hippocampal avoidance prophylactic cranial irradiation (HA-PCI) is proposed to prevent cognitive decline. It has, however, not been investigated whether hippocampal atrophy is actually mitigated by this approach. Here, we determined whether HA-PCI reduces hippocampal atrophy. Additionally, we evaluated neurotoxicity of (HA-)PCI to other brain regions. Finally, we evaluated associations of hippocampal atrophy and brain neurotoxicity with memory decline.


High-quality research MRI scans were acquired in the multicenter, randomized phase 3 trial NCT01780675. Hippocampal atrophy was evaluated for 4 months (57 HA-PCI patients and 46 PCI patients) and 12 months (28 HA-PCI patients and 27 PCI patients) after (HA-)PCI. We additionally studied multimodal indices of brain injury. Memory was assessed with the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised (HVLT-R).


HA-PCI reduced hippocampal atrophy at 4 months (1.8% for HA-PCI and 3.0% for PCI) and at 12 months (3.0% for HA-PCI and 5.8% for PCI). Both HA-PCI and PCI were associated with considerable reductions in gray matter and normal-appearing white matter, increases in white matter hyperintensities, and brain aging. There were no significant associations between hippocampal atrophy and memory.


HA-PCI reduces hippocampal atrophy at 4 and 12 months compared to regular PCI. Both types of radiotherapy are associated with considerable brain injury. We did not find evidence for excessive brain injury after HA-PCI relative to PCI. Hippocampal atrophy was not associated with memory decline in this population as measured with HVLT-R. The usefulness of HA-PCI is still subject to debate.

More about this publication

  • Volume 25
  • Issue nr. 1
  • Pages 167-176
  • Publication date 05-01-2023

This site uses cookies

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.