Healthy eating and exercise habits may heighten chemotherapy’s
effectiveness in children
Pediatric cancer patients who eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly may experience fewer cancer treatment side effects later in life, according to an MD Anderson study. Additionally, the study showed that chemotherapy may work better in these patients than in those whose eating and exercise habits are not as healthy.
This discovery propels the need for more work to determine how energy balance – a combination of diet and exercise – can be implemented effectively during treatment to manage or treat obesity.
The researchers reviewed 67 studies including 32 novel clinical trials in pediatric patients, and data from a variety of cohorts with pediatric patients diagnosed with different cancers, including patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), rhabdomyosarcoma and brain tumors. The cellular mechanisms by which energy balance impacts tumor growth was also highlighted.
The relationship between diet and exercise and its positive effects on treatment outcomes in obese cancer patients has sparked interest for quite some time, but for pediatric patients, the research has been limited.
While healthy eating is encouraged during and after treatment, special diet interventions as part of treatment for pediatric patients are uncommon. Additionally, when it comes to physical activity, clinicians are cautious about administering an exercise regimen in a cancer care setting.
“The purpose of the review was to delineate between obesity reduction as a goal for energy balance interventions versus simply changing diet or adding exercise,” said Joya Chandra, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatric Research and the study’s lead author. “For example, our review confirmed modifying diet or adding moderate exercise can improve chemotherapy efficacy independent of weight loss.”
Obesity, an epidemic and risk factor for several cancers, is on the rise in pediatric cancer patients, globally. According to Chandra, who is also the co-director of MD Anderson’s Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, obese pediatric patients diagnosed with leukemia and bone cancers have a lower prognosis for survival. Research also indicated that obese patients have a higher rate of relapse and do not respond to treatment as well as other pediatric patients. The analysis also shows genetic predisposition to obesity will require a more targeted pathway for treatment.
Although research confirms a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle lead to obesity, Chandra said additional research is needed to understand how diet and exercise affects tumors in different cancers.
Read more about this study in MD Anderson’s newsroom.