Predictors of muscle loss in cancer treatment patients

Muscle loss is a serious issue for people undergoing treatment for lung cancer, potentially affecting their survival rates and quality of life.  Dr Nicole Kiss' observational study is looking at predictors of muscle loss in people being treated for lung cancer to identify those most at risk.

About 50 per cent of people undergoing lengthy and demanding chemo-radiotherapy treatment for lung cancer suffer substantial muscle loss; and up to 60 per cent of people present with sarcopenia (low muscle mass) prior to starting treatment.

Dr Kiss, Clinical Research Fellow, Victorian Cancer Agency Nursing and Allied Health, says understanding the predictors of muscle loss will allow clinicians to identify people at high risk of muscle loss early and engage them in the supports and services that could assist in improving their experience, function, quality of life and survival.

“Currently we have no way of knowing who is at risk of muscle loss, which limits opportunities to provide timely and appropriate nutrition and exercise treatment,” Dr Kiss explained.

“We need high quality evidence to ensure we give optimal care to the people who need it at the appropriate time.”

In addition, access to nutrition and exercise services for people with lung cancer is highly variable across health services nationally and internationally. Dr Kiss says there is a high demand for allied health services in cancer centres but limited resources to meet this demand.

“This research will also help us understand the factors contributing to muscle loss so we can design effective interventions in the future,” Dr Kiss said.

Participants for the study will be recruited at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Austin Health in Melbourne and Barwon Health in Geelong.

“We will be completing interviews with participants who have experienced muscle loss, and exploring their experience of living with muscle loss while undergoing treatment as well as identifying their preferences for nutrition and physical activity interventions,” Dr Kiss said.

“This will ensure that when we develop and test interventions in the future, that the intervention will be of high value to patients, clinicians and healthcare organisations.”

Following this study, Dr Kiss hopes to investigate combined nutrition and exercise interventions that are tailored to the needs of people with lung cancer who have sarcopenia.