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Obesity is a Risk Factor when Taking Anti-Cancer Meds

Update Date: Nov 03, 2014 09:20 AM EST

Obesity can be a liability when it comes to taking certain anti-cancer medications. According to researchers headed by William Murphy from the University of California, Davis, being obese can increase one's risk of experiencing dangerous inflammation in response to immunotherapy.

For this study, Murphy and his colleagues examined the relationship between weight and response to drugs in rat models. The team had previously found that immunotherapy was effective in fighting off tumor cells in younger mice. In older mice, however, immunotherapy led to inflammation. The researchers had noted that as rats aged, they tend to gain weigh, which led the team to question whether it was weight or old age that triggered the inflammation.

The team then treated a group of young, obese rats with immunotherapy by using a mixture of immune-activating stimuli, which were anti-CD40 antibodies and interleukin (IL)-2. They discovered that this group of mice also developed lethal inflammation.

The researchers concluded that weight seems to have a greater effect than age on the body's response to immunotherapy. The team believes that losing weight can improve patients' survival chances.

Over past few years, immunotherapy has revolutionized how doctors treat cancer. This type of treatment works by triggering the patient's own immune system to work more efficiency in killing cancer cells. It also involves additional man-made components that can help fight off cancer.

The study was published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine. The press release is available here.

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