Common Chemotherapy Drug Less Effective for Overweight and Obese Individuals

Docetaxel, a common chemotherapy drug, may be less effective for obese or overweight women, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In this study, researchers analyzed data from a clinical trial comprising over 2,800 breast cancer patients that started treatment around the turn of the millennium. The researchers collated data over 10 years, and subjects were treated with combination of chemotherapy drugs with or without docetaxel.

According to the results, overweight and obese patients who received docetaxel as part of their treatment experienced worse outcomes than thinner patients (BMI between 18.5 and 25 kg/m2). This difference was not observed in patients who received the chemotherapy regimen that did not include docetaxel. “Docetaxel is a lipophilic drug, suggesting that fat present in the body could absorb part of the drug before it can reach the tumor,” explains Professor Christine Desmedt from the KU Leuven Laboratory for Translational Breast Cancer Research in a press release.

“If follow-up research confirms that this finding is solely related to the pharmacological characteristics of docetaxel, this might also apply to patients with other cancer types that are treated with docetaxel, such as prostate or lung cancer. These results also make us wonder whether other chemotherapy drugs from the same family, like paclitaxel, will show the same effect.”

“More research is needed before changes in treatment can be implemented. Patients who have concerns about docetaxel can discuss these with their doctor,” explains Professor Desmedt. “In general, the public needs to be better informed about the link between BMI and breast cancer.”

“In the medical and research world, we need to pay more attention to how obesity affects the biology, progression and treatment efficacy of breast cancer,” says Professor Biganzoli of the Unit of Medical Statistics and the Data Science Research Center, University of Milan and the Italian National Cancer Institute. “Much work remains to be done in this field.”