Cancer associated malnutrition: prevalence of cachexia, sarcopenia and impact on treatment outcomes, survival and health related quality of life

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Cushen, Samantha J.
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University College Cork
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Malnutrition, sarcopenia and cancer cachexia (CC) are prevalent among cancer patients and can have detrimental effects on clinical outcomes such as quality of life (QoL) and overall survival. Cachexia is associated with lower tolerance for chemotherapy, which limits the total dose that can be delivered, the number of symptomatic responses and any survival advantage that might be accrued. Moreover, for the majority who do not respond, cachexia may be exacerbated by systemic chemotherapy, thus increasing the net symptom burden experienced by patients. The multitude of interactions between cancer location, treatments, nutritional status and QoL has never been thoroughly explored in an Irish cancer cohort. The objectives of this thesis were to further understand nutritional status, especially body composition in ambulatory cancer patients and determine the relationship between nutritional status using different assessment criteria and QoL, chemotherapy toxicity and survival among cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Results aimed to identify baseline factors that may be predictive of poor outcome, toxicities to chemotherapy and disease-free and overall survival. This thesis broadly divides into two sections. The first section (Chapters 3 & 4) focuses on improving our knowledge of the nutritional status of Irish cancer outpatients using a cross sectional study design. A study of 517 patients referred for chemotherapy was conducted using computed tomography (CT) imaging (body composition) and a survey that documented oncologic data, weight loss (WL) data and QoL data. We revealed that a significant proportion of Irish cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy experience unintentional WL over the previous 6 months (62%), sarcopenia (45%) and CC (43%), and the distribution of WL and nutritional risk were associated with site of primary tumour and treatment intent. Patients that had sarcopenia, nutritional risk, or CC had significantly reduced functional abilities, more symptoms and adverse global QoL. In the second section of this thesis (Chapters 5 & 6) the potential link between developing toxicity to antineoplastic regimens in patients with sarcopenia was conducted by way of retrospective studies. A retrospective serial CT analysis defined the prevalence of sarcopenia in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) and metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), which was then correlated with dose limiting toxicities of sunitinib and docetaxel respectively. Sarcopenia was prevalent in patients with mRCC and mCRPC, was an occult condition in patients with normal/high BMI, was associated with less treatment days, was a significant predictor of DLT in patients receiving sunitinib and a significant predictor of neutropenia and neurosensory toxicities in patients receiving docetaxel. This thesis attempted to address the underlying research deficiencies in Irish oncology nutritional data at national level. The findings from this thesis have implications for the planning of cancer care interventions and indicate that further research is required to improve nutritional screening, in particular for CC and sarcopenia, in the hope that timely intervention can improve both patient-centered and oncologic outcomes.
Malnutrition , Sarcopenia , Quality of life , Cancer cachexia
Cushen, S. 2015. Cancer associated malnutrition: prevalence of cachexia, sarcopenia and impact on treatment outcomes, survival and health related quality of life. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.