Body Mass Index Impacts Ovarian Cancer Chemotherapy Dosages

(July 19, 2015) Ovarian cancer patients who are overweight or obese are often given less chemotherapy per pound of body weight in order to reduce the toxic side effects associated with higher doses, and this in turn may lower their chances of survival, according to a study by researchers at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research. The study was published in the online edition of JAMA Oncology.

Doses of chemotherapy are generally based on a patient’s weight. However, doctors may decide not to provide doses over a certain level to reduce real and serious toxic side effects. For cancer patients who are overweight, this results in reducing the chemotherapy dose per pound of body weight — and possibly the effectiveness of chemotherapy in improving outcomes.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in what proper chemotherapy dosing levels should be for overweight and obese patients, based on concerns that using the full dose based on weight or body size could be too toxic,” said Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, epidemiologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and lead author of the study.

“Our study is the first to evaluate the impact of dose reduction in survival after an ovarian cancer diagnosis in normal weight, overweight, and obese women,” said Dr. Bandera, who is also a professor of epidemiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers School of Public Health. “We found that for each body mass index category, ovarian cancer patients with dose reduction experienced a poorer survival rate.”

Read a news release about this research here; read the abstract here.

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