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How being overweight could help patients fight cancer


While obesity or overweight has its negative health implications, study has found that it could also help cancer patients beat the disease, as fat people respond better to a powerful immunotherapy drug.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology.

According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimate, at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese, but scientists in their research found that fat cancer patients responded better to a powerful drug designed to kill tumours called atezolizumab.

Atezolizumab, branded as Tecentriq, is an immunotherapy drug given to patients with non-small-cell lung cancer.


Also, researchers at the Flinders University in Australia, who conducted the study on 1,434 patients who had non-small-cell lung cancer, said the results were ‘interesting’, given the decades worth of evidence that has proven obesity causes cancer.

The disease is the most common form of lung cancer, accounting for almost nine in ten of the 47,000 cases diagnosed in the United Kingdom each year.

Meanwhile, 49 percent of the participants were considered to be a normal weight, 34 percent overweight and seven percent obsessed.

Findings showed that the patients given atezolizumab who had a Body Mass Index of 25 or more, deemed overweight – had up to a 32 percent better chance of surviving.

However, the same results were not seen for docetaxel, a chemotherapy drug also offered to treat non-small-cell lung cancer.

Dr. Ganessan Kichenadasse, who led the study said: ‘This is an interesting outcome and it raises the potential to investigate further with other cancers and other anti-cancer drugs.’

He said it adds to the theory of the ‘obesity paradox’ whereby cancer can be both worsened and helped by being fat.

“Our study provides new evidence to support the hypothesis that high BMI and obesity may be associated with response to immunotherapy,” Kichenadasse said.

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