Women who are obese when they are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer have a higher risk of recurrence or a second cancer compared to women whose weight is within the normal range and it may be difficult to lose weight after the diagnosed with breast cancer. Now a clinical trial has shown that a phone-based weight loss program can help breast cancer patients whose body mass index is in the overweight or obese range to significantly reduce their weight.
The findings, which will be reported by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), provide the basis for further research into whether this type of program can extend patient survival and lower their risk of cancer. a return of breast cancer.
“We know that when women are diagnosed with breast cancer, obese women have a higher risk of dying from the disease, developing second cancers and dying from any cause,” says Dana-Farber’s Jennifer Ligibel, MD, the trial’s principal investigator, who will present the findings at ASCO. “But we don’t know if helping patients lose weight after diagnosis will improve treatment outcomes. That’s what this study is trying to find out.”
The Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) trial, a Phase III trial supported by the National Cancer Institute, enrolled nearly 3,200 women from more than 600 cancer treatment centers in the US and Canada. The participants, diagnosed with stage 2 or 3 HER2-negative breast cancer, had undergone chemotherapy and radiation (if administered) and were randomly assigned to either a telephone weight-loss program plus health education. or health education alone. The weight-loss program, conducted over the phone, coached patients on how to reduce their calorie intake and increase exercise.
Participants’ height and weight were measured when they entered the study and 12 months later. After 12 months, researchers monitored the weight of nearly 2,400 breast cancer-free patients.
We found that the weight loss program was very successful in helping patients reduce their weight.”
Jennifer Ligibel, MD, principal investigator on the trial
Women who received the telephone intervention lost an average of 4.8% of their baseline body weight, compared to an average 0.9% increase in body weight in those in the control group.
The findings were especially notable because they were consistent regardless of the patients’ age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and education level, and the type of breast cancer they had.
Within this overall trend, however, researchers noticed some differences in weight change patterns between the participants. While the weight loss program was effective in both older and younger patients, younger women experienced slightly less weight loss. Younger women who not weight loss counselors gained slightly more weight than older participants, so the rate of weight change was relatively similar in older and younger patients.
A similar pattern occurred in black patients, who made up 13% of the trial participants. Black women in the weight loss program group lost less weight on average than others, but black women in the control group gained more weight than control participants of other races and ethnicities. However, women in the weight-loss program lost more weight than women in the control group, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, or other characteristics.
The results provide starting points for the next phase of the research. “We will continue to follow patients enrolled in the BWEL trial to determine whether the weight-loss program reduces the risk of cancer recurrence and cancer-related death,” notes Ligibel. “We hope that this research eventually shows that a healthy lifestyle change after a cancer diagnosis has a positive effect on outcomes, so that we can routinely offer this type of program to patients as part of their breast cancer care.”
Ligibel will present the results of the BWEL study at the Oral Abstract Session on Symptoms and Survival (Abstract 12001) at ASCO in Chicago on June 5, 2023, 9:12 a.m. ET.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute