The Relationship between Imaging-Based Body Composition Analysis and the Systemic Inflammatory Response in Patients with Cancer: A Systematic Review

Cancers (Basel). 2019 Sep 4;11(9):1304. doi: 10.3390/cancers11091304.


Background and aim: Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. Nutritional status (cachexia) and systemic inflammation play a significant role in predicting cancer outcome. The aim of the present review was to examine the relationship between imaging-based body composition and systemic inflammation in patients with cancer. Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library and Google Scholar were searched up to 31 March 2019 for published articles using MESH terms cancer, body composition, systemic inflammation, Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound sonography (USS) and computed tomography (CT). Studies performed in adult patients with cancer describing the relationship between imaging-based body composition and measures of the systemic inflammatory response were included in this review. Results: The literature search retrieved 807 studies and 23 met the final eligibility criteria and consisted of prospective and retrospective cohort studies comprising 11,474 patients. CT was the most common imaging modality used (20 studies) and primary operable (16 studies) and colorectal cancer (10 studies) were the most commonly studied cancers. Low skeletal muscle index (SMI) and systemic inflammation were consistently associated; both had a prognostic value and this relationship between low SMI and systemic inflammation was confirmed in four longitudinal studies. There was also evidence that skeletal muscle density (SMD) and systemic inflammation were associated (9 studies). Discussion: The majority of studies examining the relationship between CT based body composition and systemic inflammation were in primary operable diseases and in patients with colorectal cancer. These studies showed that there was a consistent association between low skeletal muscle mass and the presence of a systemic inflammatory response. These findings have important implications for the definition of cancer cachexia and its treatment.

Keywords: body composition; cachexia; cancer; computed tomography; dual energy X-ray absorptiometry; magnetic resonance imaging; systemic inflammation; ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Review