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Sarcopenia in Esophageal Cancer Represents a Significant Risk to Survival

Key Points

  • The results show that patients who suffered sarcopenia at any time during treatment had a poorer prognosis for survival: On average, their period of survival was 32 months shorter than that of patients who were not diagnosed with sarcopenia.
  • Researchers explained, “Sarcopenia is not necessarily a side effect of chemotherapy. Many patients were already sarcopenic before the treatment and there was no significant progression of sarcopenia during treatment.”
  • The reasons for sarcopenia are poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

Patients with esophageal cancer who suffer sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) during neoadjuvant chemotherapy survive, on average, 32 months less than patients with no sarcopenia. This is the central finding of a recent study conducted at the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital. The findings of the study were published by Paireder et al in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology.

The standard treatment in esophageal cancer in which the tumor is advanced but not yet metastasized is to give chemotherapy or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy prior to surgery (multimodal therapy). In local carcinomas that are not advanced, surgery is the treatment of choice.

Study Findings

In their study, experts in stomach and esophageal cancer investigated to what extent sarcopenia and body composition changed during multimodal therapy, and whether this has any influence upon long-term survival. The results show that patients who suffered sarcopenia at any time during treatment had a poorer prognosis for survival: On average, their period of survival was 32 months shorter than that of patients who were not diagnosed with sarcopenia. Sarcopenia was therefore identified as an independent risk factor.

Matthias Paireder, MD, Department of Surgery of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital, member of the CCC, and lead author of the study, said, “Sarcopenia is not necessarily a side effect of chemotherapy. Many patients were already sarcopenic before the treatment, and there was no significant progression of sarcopenia during treatment. The reasons for this loss of general muscle mass are poor nutrition and lack of exercise.”

New Study Planned

In a new study, the team will investigate whether a program that includes nutritional advice and physical training could significantly increase long-term survival for patients with esophageal cancer.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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