Posted on Sep 20, 2019, 2 p.m.
Lifting weights does more than make the body appear to look more muscular, by increasing muscle mass strength training may help to prevent the onset of muscle wasting due to sarcopenia and make it easier to treat lung cancer.
Researchers have discovered a link between sarcopenia and effectiveness of therapies for advanced cases of non-small cell lung cancer, in that patients with sarcopenia didn’t respond well to cancer treatments using programmed death-1 inhibitors.
Programmed death-1 inhibits are a fairly new class of drugs that fight cancer by working with the immune system of the patient to kill tumor cells, unlike chemotherapy which kill all cells. These new drugs increase the ability of the immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells, and this class of drug is being used in more therapies for non-small cell lung cancer as well as other forms of cancer.
Effectiveness of these drugs depends largely on the state of the patient’s immune system. Only a small percentage of cancer patients will survive the advanced stage of this disease for more than a year even with the help of programmed death-1 inhibitors.
“Sarcopenia is a well-known risk factor associated with poor outcomes for several cancer types,” said Osaka University researcher Takayuki Shiroyama, the lead author of the study. “Because muscle degradation is associated with a dysregulated immune response, we wanted to investigate how, in lung cancer patients, sarcopenia impacts the efficacy of PD-1 inhibitor therapy.”
Medical records were examined from patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, researchers only selected those who underwent evaluation for sarcopenia prior to treatment, and of the 42 patients analyzed 52.4% had sarcopenia.
Those with sarcopenia were found to respond poorly to programmed death-1 inhibitors, and the cancerous tumor in their lungs continued to progress despite the combined efforts of cancer treatment. According to analysis 38.1% of the patients with normal skeletal muscle remained in remission a year after treatment, as compared to only 10.1% of those with sarcopenia.
“Our findings suggest that baseline skeletal muscle mass has a substantial impact on PD-1 inhibitor efficacy,” said Shiroyama. “As such, skeletal muscle mass might be useful for predicting whether treatment is likely to be effective.”
Those with advanced stages of cancer most often suffer from muscle wasting, results from this study imply that these people will not experience benefit from taking programmed death-1 inhibitors as part of cancer therapy.
Researchers are working on developing drugs that will help to boost skeletal mass, aside from drugs natural methods such as weight lifting may help to prevent the effects of sarcopenia to increase the effectiveness of the cancer fighting programmed death-1 inhibitors.
Other types of resistance/strength training may also be of benefit to older people to help protect them from sarcopenia, and they may also work for cancer patients as well.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.