Radiation Therapy Fatigue Linked to Cytokine Network

Observational study suggests cancer patients could benefit from cytokine antagonist therapy

THURSDAY, Aug. 27 (HealthDay News) -- In patients who receive radiation treatment for early-stage breast or prostate cancer, the resulting fatigue may be associated with activation of the proinflammatory cytokine network, according to a study published online Aug. 25 in Clinical Cancer Research.

Julienne E. Bower, Ph.D., of the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues assessed 28 breast cancer patients and 20 prostate cancer patients before, during, and after a course of radiation therapy, using patient questionnaires and blood samples.

During treatment, the researchers observed a significant increase in fatigue symptoms which was associated with increased blood levels of C-reactive protein and IL-1 receptor antagonist, but not IL-1β or IL-6. They also found that the associations remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders such as age, body mass index, and hormone therapy.

"The identification of inflammatory processes as potential mediators of radiation-induced fatigue has important treatment implications for cancer patients," the authors conclude. "Initial trials with cytokine antagonists have shown beneficial effects on fatigue, including trials conducted with cancer patients designed to improve the tolerability of chemotherapy. Although these agents have not yet been investigated in patients undergoing radiation therapy, they may be indicated if fatigue is of sufficient severity to merit discontinuation of treatment, leads to significant decrements in quality of life, and/or persists for months or years after treatment completion."

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