Specific designed and targeted physical interventions over a reasonable duration of time may benefit patients with cachexia, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer

Many studies evaluating the impact of exercise among patients with cancer select participants according to disease stage rather than weight loss or other cachexia-based factors. The rate in which patients’ strength and physical function declines among those with cachexia requires further exploration. 

For this study, researchers enrolled 50 patients with thoracic and gastrointestinal cancers with established cachexia. Eligible patients had greater than 5% unintentional weight loss in 6 months or body mass index (BMI) of less than 20 plus a 2% weight loss. Assessments including BMI, muscle strength, balance, and physical functioning (10-meter walk time and timed up-and-go [TUG]) were completed at baseline and repeated at 4 and 8 weeks. 

Related Articles

Of the original 50 participants, 54% (27) completed the 4-week assessment and 40% (20) completed the 8-week assessment. Baseline characteristics between participants who completed the study did not differ significantly compared with those who did not. 

Results showed that despite high levels of attrition, patients who completed both the 4- and 8-week assessments did not experience significant changes in strength and performance measures (P>.05), suggesting that nearly one-third of study patients may benefit from targeted interventions over a reasonable duration.

The authors noted that patients with thoracic cancer had lower muscle strength and function (P<.05). 

“The findings highlight the potential utility of measures of task performance, easily undertaken in clinical settings, as outcomes reflective of perceived functional ability and the need to investigate — in a larger study population — baseline predictors of functional stability and rehabilitation potential in the setting of established cachexia,” concluded the authors.

Reference

Gale N, Wasley D, Roberts S, et al. A longitudinal study of muscle strength and function in patients with cancer cachexia [published online June 2, 2018]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4297-8