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Testing Whether Avoiding the Hippocampus During Whole-Brain Radiation Therapy Prevents Cognitive Side Effects in Patients with Small Cell Lung Cancer

Cancer Type
Lung Cancer
Trial Phase
Phase II
Phase III
18 Years and older, Male and Female
Study Type
Supportive care
Protocol IDs
NRG-CC003 (primary)
Study Sponsor
NRG Oncology


This phase II/III trial studies whether avoiding the hippocampus during whole-brain radiation therapy prevents cognitive side effects in patients with small cell lung cancer that is found in one lung, the tissues between the lungs, and nearby lymph nodes only (limited stage) or has spread outside of the lung in which it began or to other parts of the body (extensive stage). Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to kill tumor cells and shrink tumors. The hippocampus is part of the brain that is important for memory. Avoiding the hippocampus during whole-brain radiation could decrease the chance of side effects on memory and thinking. It is not yet known whether giving whole-brain radiation therapy is more effective with or without hippocampal avoidance in treating patients with small cell lung cancer.


I. Determine whether the 12-month intracranial relapse rate following hippocampal avoidance (HA)-prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI) is non-inferior to the rate following PCI for patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC). (Randomized Phase II Component [Non-Inferiority])
II. Determine whether HA-PCI reduces the likelihood of 6-month deterioration from baseline in Hopkins Verbal Learning Test (HVLT)-Revised (R) delayed recall compared to PCI for patients with SCLC. (Phase III Component [Efficacy])

I. Compare time to cognitive failure, as measured by a battery of tests (HVLT-R, Controlled Oral Word Association [COWA] test, and Trail Making Test [TMT] parts A and B), after PCI versus HA-PCI in SCLC.
II. Compare time to cognitive failure as separately measured by each test (HVLT-R for Total Recall and Delayed Recognition, COWA test, and TMT parts A and B), after PCI versus HA-PCI for SCLC.
III. Compare patient-reported cognitive functioning and other quality of life domains (assessed by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer [EORTC] Quality of Life Questionnaire [QLQ]-Core [C]30 and Brain Cancer Module [BN] 20) between PCI versus HA-PCI for patients with SCLC.
IV. Compare overall survival after PCI versus HA-PCI for patients with SCLC.
V. Compare 12-month intracranial relapse rate (at completion of phase III) and time to intracranial relapse after PCI versus HA-PCI for patients with SCLC.
VI. Evaluate adverse events according to Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) criteria.
VII. Correlate changes in health-related quality of life (HRQOL) domains with changes in cognitive testing outcomes following PCI versus HA-PCI for patients with SCLC.
VIII. Assess cost-effectiveness of HA-PCI (modulated radiation therapy [MRT]) and PCI (3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy [3DCRT]) using the EuroQOL-5 dimension (D) health state classification (EQ-5D-5L).
IX. Correlate micro-ribonucleic acid (miRNA) signatures with cognitive failure in SCLC patients who received PCI and HA-PCI.
X. Evaluate APOE genotyping as potential predictor of neurocognitive decline, hippocampal atrophy after brain irradiation and/or differential benefit from hippocampal avoidance.
XI. Evaluate baseline MR imaging biomarkers of white matter injury and hippocampal volumetry as potential predictors of cognitive decline and differential benefit from HA-PCI as compared to PCI.

I. Collect serum and whole blood for future translational research analyses.
II. Compare levels of hopefulness between PCI versus HA-PCI for patients with SCLC.

OUTLINE: Patients are randomized to 1 of 2 treatment arms.

ARM I: Patients undergo PCI using 3DCRT daily for 2 weeks.

ARM II: Patients undergo PCI with HA using IMRT daily for 2 weeks.

After completion of study treatment, patients are followed every 3 months for 1 year, then every 6 months until 3 years and then annually until death.


  2. Histologic proof or unequivocal cytologic proof (fine needle aspiration, biopsy or two positive sputa) of SCLC within 250 days prior to Step 1 registration; * High-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma or combined SCLC and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is permitted
  3. Patients must be registered to Step 1 registration no earlier than 7 days and no later than 56 days after completing chemotherapy, Note: * Post-chemotherapy restaging imaging must be completed no more than 56 days prior to Step 1 registration * For patients with extensive-stage small cell lung cancer who are being considered for consolidative thoracic radiotherapy after chemotherapy, concomitant administration of consolidative thoracic radiotherapy and protocol-specified prophylactic cranial irradiation with or without hippocampal avoidance is permitted
  4. Patients must have a gadolinium contrast-enhanced three-dimensional (3D), spoiled gradient (SPGR), magnetization-prepared rapid gradient echo (MP-RAGE), or turbo field echo (TFE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan; to yield acceptable image quality, the gadolinium contrast-enhanced three-dimensional SPGR, MP-RAGE or TFE axial MRI scan must use the smallest possible axial slice thickness not exceeding 1.5 mm; sites may contact the Imaging Co-Chairs for further information or assistance if needed * This MRI must be obtained within 56 days prior to Step 1 registration. * Note: the MRI study is mandatory irrespective of randomization to the experimental or control arm of this study
  5. Prior to chemotherapy +/- or thoracic radiotherapy, patients must be defined as limited-stage or extensive-stage SCLC after clinical staging evaluation involving the following: * History/physical examination; * Computed tomography (CT) of the chest and abdomen with contrast (does not have to be done if the patient has had a positron emission tomography [PET]/CT scan prior to initiating chemotherapy or thoracic radiotherapy) * MRI of the brain with contrast or diagnostic head CT with contrast * For patients without evidence of extensive-stage SCLC on chest and abdomen CT and brain MRI or head CT, a PET/CT or bone scan is required to confirm limited-stage SCLC
  6. After chemotherapy, patients must be restaged prior Step 1 registration using the same diagnostic work-up as required pre-chemotherapy; repeat PET/CT or bone scan is not required; patients must have: * History/physical examination within 30 days of Step 1 registration * No central nervous system (CNS) metastases (repeat MRI required) within 56 days prior to Step 1 registration * No progression in any site * Radiographic partial or complete response to chemotherapy in at least one disease site within 56 days prior to Step 1 registration ** If PET/CT was obtained prior to chemotherapy, either a repeat PET/CT or CT of the chest and abdomen with contrast can be obtained for response assessment ** Patients who underwent resection for limited-stage SCLC prior to chemotherapy and have no radiographically evident disease for response assessment remain eligible if post-chemotherapy imaging demonstrates no progression
  7. Zubrod performance status 0-2 within 30 days prior to Step 1 registration
  8. Women of childbearing potential must have a negative qualitative serum pregnancy test =< 14 days prior to Step 1 registration
  9. Patients who are primary English or French speakers are eligible
  10. Patients must sign a study-specific informed consent prior to study entry
  12. The following baseline neurocognitive assessments must be completed and uploaded within 10 calendar days after or at the time of Step 1 registration: HVLT-R (recall, delayed recall, and recognition), TMT (parts A and B), and COWA; the neurocognitive assessments will be uploaded into the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, and Gynecologic Oncology Group (NRG) Oncology RAVE system for evaluation by Dr. Wefel; once the upload is complete, within 3 business days, a notification will be sent to the site to proceed to Step 2 registration; at minimum, the HVLT-R delayed recall must be able to be scored (i.e. completed without error) in order to be eligible
  13. Patients must have a baseline raw score greater than 2 on the HVLT-R delayed recall. as determined by central assessment by the Neurocognitive Co-Chair, Dr. Wefel

Treatment Sites in Georgia

Emory University Hospital - Midtown

550 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Georgia Cancer Specialists - CenterPointe

1100 Johnson Ferry Road
Suite 600
Sandy Springs, GA 30342
404-256-4777 ext 9242


Rodolfo E. Bordoni MD
Pradeep C. Jolly MD

Grady Memorial Hospital

80 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive, SE
Atlanta, GA 30303

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute

1000 Johnson Ferry Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342

Study Coordinator:
Renee Gaiter


Edmund Simon MD

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute - Forsyth

1200 Northside Forsyth Drive
Suite 140
Cumming, GA 30041


Edmund Simon MD

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

1365 Clifton Road NE
Building C
Atlanta, GA 30322

**Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. These studies test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, or treat diseases. People who take part in cancer clinical trials have an opportunity to contribute to scientists’ knowledge about cancer and to help in the development of improved cancer treatments. They also receive state-of-the-art care from cancer experts... Click here to learn more about clinical trials.
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Advancing Cancer Care through Partnerships and Innovation

Georgia CORE is a statewide nonprofit that leverages partnerships and innovation to attract more clinical trials, increase research, and promote education and early detection to improve cancer care for Georgians in rural, urban, and suburban communities across the state.