Purpose: Body composition has emerged as an important prognostic factor in cancer patients. Severe depletion of skeletal muscle (sarcopenia) and, hence, of overall lean body mass may represent an occult condition in individuals with normal or even high body weight. Sarcopenia has been associated with poor performance status, 5-fluorouracil toxicity, and shortened survival in cancer patients. Here, we prospectively studied patients with metastatic breast cancer receiving capecitabine treatment in order to determine if sarcopenia was associated with a higher incidence of toxicity and a shorter time to tumor progression (TTP).
Experimental design: Fifty-five women with metastatic breast cancer resistant to anthracycline and/or taxane treatment were included. Skeletal muscle cross-sectional area at the third lumbar vertebra was measured by computerized tomography, and sarcopenia was defined using a previously published cutoff point. Toxicity was assessed after cycle 1 of treatment, and TTP was determined prospectively.
Results: Approximately 25% of patients were classified as sarcopenic, and this feature was seen in normal weight, overweight, and obese individuals. Toxicity was present in 50% of sarcopenic patients, compared with only 20% of nonsarcopenic patients (P = 0.03), and TTP was shorter in sarcopenic patients (101.4 days; confidence interval, 59.8-142.9) versus nonsarcopenic patients (173.3 days; confidence interval, 126.1-220.5; P = 0.05).
Conclusion: Sarcopenia is a significant predictor of toxicity and TTP in metastatic breast cancer patients treated with capecitabine. Our results raise the potential use of body composition assessment to predict toxicity and individualize chemotherapy dosing.