Explorative study on the predictive value of systematic inflammatory and metabolic markers on weight loss in head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy

Support Care Cancer. 2010 Nov;18(11):1385-91. doi: 10.1007/s00520-009-0758-4. Epub 2009 Oct 15.


Purpose: This study aimed to explore the predictive value of systematic inflammatory and metabolic markers in head and neck (H&N) cancer patients during radiotherapy (RT).

Methods: Twenty-seven patients were evaluated. The protocol included serial blood tests [highly sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP), albumin, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), IGF binding protein 1 (IGFBP-1) and ghrelin], measurements of body weight and assessment of oral mucositis.

Results: The mean nadir of weight loss was observed at the end of RT. At the time of diagnosis, mean hsCRP was 5.2 ± 1.0 mg/L. HsCRP significantly increased during RT and decreased during the post-RT period. Mean maximum hsCRP was 35.8 ± 8.5 mg/L, with seven patients reaching >40 mg/L. A numerical decrease of albumin (by 18.2%) and only small changes in IGF-1, IGFBP-1 and ghrelin levels were observed. None of the metabolic parameters was significantly associated with weight loss.

Conclusions: HsCRP increased in response to RT for H&N cancer as a sign of irradiation-induced inflammation. Weight loss was not preceded by changes of the metabolic parameters, indicating that assessment of the blood markers used in this study is of little value. Regular body weight measurement and assessment of oral mucositis are feasible, cheap and important procedures to control the metabolic homeostasis during RT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diagnosis*
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radiation Injuries
  • Stomatitis / diagnosis*
  • Stomatitis / etiology
  • Weight Loss*


  • Biomarkers
  • C-Reactive Protein