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August 1, 1990

Primate Study Suggests Pentobarbital May Help Protect the Brain During Radiation Therapy

JAMA. 1990;264(5):557-561. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450050015003

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RADIATION THERAPY, an often indispensable treatment for a wide range of brain tumors, is a double-edged sword, especially when used to treat children (JAMA. 1988;260:3400-3405).

Incomplete development of secondary sexual characteristics, growth inhibition, cognitive deficits, and chronic lethargy are among the complications of radiotherapy for brain tumors in children. Such consequences limit radiation dosage and in turn the efficacy of treatment.

Research reported at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society, in Atlanta, Ga, now suggests that pentobarbital and perhaps other barbiturates may help protect the brain from radiation-induced damage, especially to the pituitary and hypothalmus, where such damage can lead to serious, life-long problems for children.

Jeffrey J. Olson, MD, now assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, reported the results of a study of the radioprotective effects of pentobarbital on the brain of a primate, which he and colleagues at the National Institute