Immunotherapy is a promising recent therapeutic approach in oncology. Oncologists prescribe immunotherapies to enhance a person’s own immune response against their cancer, resulting in targeted destruction of aberrant cells. In the last five years, survival from metastatic renal cell carcinoma has improved through combination treatment with the immune checkpoint inhibitors ipilimumab and nivolumab. However, there is a spectrum of response and people with deficient muscle mass, called “sarcopenia”, have worse outcomes. Together with his collaborators, Dr. Hussey retrospectively used radiographic measures of pre-treatment lean muscle mass and levels of blood albumin in effort to better predict which renal cancer patients will have greater mortality after dual checkpoint inhibitor therapy. The investigators found that sarcopenia and low albumin were associated with increased all-cause mortality in the 4 years after treatment, but that they were not associated with increased risk of therapy-related adverse events.
This study lays a foundation for future research to examine whether nutritional and body composition biomarkers could be used to personalize counseling and treatment plans for patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma.
When asked about the importance of this work, Dr. Hussey stated: “Personalized treatment information can be incredibly helpful for patients who are navigating such a difficult time in their lives. Knowing where you may fall on a spectrum of outcomes can make the difference for a patient and their loved ones when they try to decide what to prioritize in their care.”