Having a Higher Body Mass Index (BMI) Increases Survival Rate in Certain Types of Cancer

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A higher BMI is generally considered unhealthy but this study reveals an amazing medical benefit of it. The new research from Flinders University indicates that an above-average BMI may increase the survival rate in certain types of cancer. It is contrary to the usual relation between cancer and BMI where a higher BMI is linked with increased risk of diseases.

This study focuses on atezolizumab’s clinical trials. Atezolizumab is a part of immunotherapy treatment that works efficiently for non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This research team found that higher BMI patients respond better to this drug as compared to normal and below-average BMI patients.

The complete study findings are published today in “JAMA Oncology”.

Click here to read the research paper.

Dr. Ganessan Kichenadasse is the lead author of this research. Most of his work is in medical oncology at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer. Dr. Kichenadasse says;

“This is an interesting outcome and it raises the potential to investigate further with other cancers and other anti-cancer drugs,” says the lead investigator. We need to do further studies into the possible link between BMI and related inflammation, which might help to understand the mechanisms behind the paradoxical response to this form of cancer treatment.”

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He further adds that;

“Previous studies have explored a concept called ‘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.

He finds this new study to support the previous hypothesis that higher BMI and obesity are not always risk factors for certain diseases. This study is proof that it improves the body’s response to immunotherapy.

The researchers from Flinders found that NSCLC patients having a higher BMI than normal  (typically BMI > 25 kg/m2) showed a visible reduction in mortality during four clinical trials. All these trials were with atezolizumab which is thought to enhance checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy for cancer patients.  This treatment can be particularly helpful for lung cancer, which is a rapidly evolving disease.

This study is only a baseline study of cancer treatment and its efficacy in other diseases is not studied. The researchers are hopeful that more advanced studies of this experiment will explain the potentially protective role of a higher BMI in cancer patients and how does it improve other cancer treatments as well.

World Health Organization (WHO) reports that every year more than 2.8 million people die due to obesity, overweight and weight-related diseases. It is clear that overweight and obesity have adverse effects on health. They often lead to metabolic diseases such as irregular blood pressure, high cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes, and insulin resistance.

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It also increases the risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. On the other side body, mass index (BMI) is only a standard unit of checking weight relative to height.

Usually, a higher BMI increases the risk of certain diseases but this particular study has revealed its possible role in cancer therapy. It is necessary to investigate BMI and immunotherapy relations at a molecular level so that cancer treatment can be improved and thousands of people who lose their life to cancer can be saved.

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