Good Nutrition Critical to Chemotherapy

Great strides have been made in treating cancer to achieve a 5-year survival rate of 68%. Targeted therapies and advances in genetics are enabling more personalized patient care for several cancer types. Treating cancer patients goes beyond the cancer itself; clinicians need to treat the whole patient. Nutrition is an often overlooked element of care. Weight loss has been shown to be a poor prognostic sign in cancer. Malnutrition can impair the response to treatment, quality of life, and the immune system. Patients need recommendations that extend beyond the broad strokes of adding calories, drinking more, and picking up nutritional supplements. Specific food restrictions or recommendations can depend on chemotherapy treatment, disease, and symptoms. A personalized approach to nutritional care must include a medication review, an assessment for nutritional risk, weight loss, food intake, symptoms, and comorbidities. It has been estimated that 80% of cancer patients never receive an evaluation from a registered dietitian (RD). Meeting Patient Needs Medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists likely realize the need to address nutrition. However, practitioners are increasingly overloaded and time demands hamper achievement of this objective. New solutions for the patient are needed. Pharmacists who are specially trained in drug toxicity, drug interactions, and counseling can help meet many patient needs. Several academic centers have integrated clinical pharmacist practitioners into outpatient oncology clinics. Specialist pharmacists in Medco’s Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center integrate food restrictions or recommendations within the counseling they routinely provide by phone to a population of about 900,000 people. This is particularly important for those taking oral cancer medications because intake influences absorption and bioavailability, thus circulating drug levels. “…80%...