Nutritional Intervention RTx & Pelvic Malignancy-NEEDS STUDY

Role of nutritional intervention in patients treated with radiotherapy for pelvic malignancy

C McGough1, C Baldwin1, G Frost2 and H J N Andreyev1

1Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, 4th Floor, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, 369, Fulham Road, London SW10 9NH, UK

2Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, Du Cane Rd, London W12 0HS

Correspondence to: Dr HJN Andreyev, E-mail:

Conclusion FIRST: There is no evidence base for the use of nutritional interventions to prevent or manage bowel symptoms attributable to radiotherapy. Low-fat diets, probiotic supplementation and elemental diet merit further investigation.

Up to 12 000 patients with gynaecological, urological and rectal cancer undergo radical pelvic radiotherapy annually in the UK.

More than 70% develop acute inflammatory changes causing gastrointestinal symptoms during treatment because healthy bowel tissue is encompassed in the radiation field. In total, 50% go on to develop chronic bowel symptoms, which affect quality of life due to permanent changes in the small and large intestine.

Nutritional intervention may influence acute and chronic bowel symptoms but the validity of the advice given to patients is not clear.

To assess the incidence and significance of malnutrition and to examine the efficacy of therapeutic nutritional interventions used to manage gastrointestinal side effects in patients undergoing pelvic radiotherapy and those with chronic bowel side effects after treatment, a critical review of relevant original studies on human subjects was carried out using a specific set of mesh terms in MEDLINE and EMBASE databases and the Cochrane Library in September 2003.

Full texts of all relevant articles were collected and reference lists were checked. Sources of grey literature including conference abstracts and web-based information were also reviewed.

A total of 36 papers published in peer-reviewed journals between 1966 and 2003 were identified.

In all, 14 randomised controlled trials, 12 prospective cohorts, four retrospective, two qualitative, one validation, one pilot study and two case reports were obtained. These included 2646 patients. Eight articles including three conference abstracts and web-based information were found.

None of the studies was definitive because of weakness in methodology. No studies could be combined because the interventions and the end points were different.

British Journal of Cancer (2004) 90, 2278-2287. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6601868 Published online 25 May 2004

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