Background: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) frequently presents in advanced stages. A significant proportion of those with reportedly good ECOG performance status (PS) fail to receive planned multidisciplinary team (MDT) treatment, often for functional reasons, but an objective decline in physical performance is not well described. Sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass, is an integral part of cancer cachexia. However, changes in both muscle mass and physical performance may predate clinically overt cachexia, and may be present even with normal body mass index. Physical fitness for treatment is currently subjectively assessed by means of the PS score, which may be inadequate in predicting tolerance to treatment. This study aims to evaluate whether measuring physical performance and muscle mass at baseline in NSCLC patients, in addition to PS score, is able to predict commencement and successful completion of MDT-planned treatment.
Methods/design: This is a prospective, single-centre exploratory study of NSCLC patients attending a Rapid Access Lung Cancer clinic. Baseline data collected are (methods in brackets): physical performance (Short Physical Performance Battery), muscle mass (bioelectrical impedance ± dual energy x-ray absorptiometry), patient and physician-assessed PS (ECOG and Karnofsky), nutritional status and presence of cachexia. Longitudinal data consists of receipt and completion of MDT treatment plan. The primary outcome measure is commencement of MDT-planned treatment, and important secondary outcomes include successful completion of treatment, length of stay in surgical patients, and risk of chemotherapy- and radiotherapy-related side effects.
Discussion: A more comprehensive assessment of phenotype, particularly with regards to physical performance and muscle mass, will provide additional discriminatory information of patients' fitness for treatment. If positive, this study has the potential to identify targets for early intervention in those who are at risk of deterioration. This will subsequently enable optimisation of performance of patients with NSCLC, in anticipation of systemic treatment.