Higher body weight may improve cancer survival

There is a good news for obese and overweight people as researchers have found that higher body weight or high body mass index (BMI) could increase the chance of beating certain cancers. Focusing on clinical trials of atezolizumab, a common immunotherapy treatment for non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), researchers found improved responsiveness to the drug in those with a high body mass index (BMI).

"This is an interesting outcome and it raises the potential to investigate further with other cancers and other anti-cancer drugs," said study lead investigator Ganessan Kichenadasse.

The WHO estimates at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity leads to adverse metabolic effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. Risks of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke and type 2 diabetes mellitus increase steadily with increasing body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight relative to height.

"Previous studies have explored a concept called as 'obesity paradox' where obesity is associated with increased risks for developing certain cancers and, counter-intuitively, may protect and give greater survival benefits in certain individuals," Kichenadasse said.

"Our study provides new evidence to support the hypothesis that high BMI and obesity may be associated with response to immunotherapy," Kichenadasse added.

1,434 participants took part in the study, in which 49 per cent were normal weight, 34 per cent were overweight and seven per cent were obese. The researchers found NSCLC patients with high BMI (BMI 25 kg/m2) in four clinical trials had a significant reduction in mortality with atezolizumab, apparently benefiting from immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy.

Treatment options for this form of lung cancer are rapidly evolving and includes ICIs, molecular targeted drugs and chemotherapies, the study said.

"While our study only looked at baseline and during treatment, we believe it warrants more studies into the potentially protective role of high BMI in other cancer treatments," Kichenadasse said.

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