The goal of treating advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that cannot be cured is to control the symptoms of disease and increase survival time as effectively as possible. A recent study indicates that infusion with adenosine 5′ triphosphate (ATP), a substance that occurs naturally in the body, may help reduce excessive weight loss and improve quality of life in persons with advanced NSCLC.
Non-small cell lung cancer is a term used to describe at least 5 types of lung cancer, including epidermoid or squamous carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, and undifferentiated carcinoma. NSCLC may be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and/or biologic therapy. When the disease has spread throughout the lung area and to other parts of the body (called advanced or metastatic disease), treatment options serve to relieve the symptoms of disease, enhance quality of life, and prolong survival time. One of the symptoms that can occur with advanced cancer is loss of appetite and excessive weight loss or wasting (called cachexia). Researchers have used chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to delay or halt this weight loss, but they continue to develop more effective, less toxic treatments.
ATP is a substance in the body that plays a key role in biologic processes such as muscle contraction and sugar metabolism. Now, researchers from the Netherlands have conducted a comparison study to determine the ability of ATP infusions to inhibit weight loss in persons with advanced NSCLC.
Fifty-eight persons with advanced NSCLC were assigned to receive either ATP or no ATP. The ATP was given in 10 intravenous 30-hour infusions every 2 to 4 weeks. The results showed that patients who received the ATP lost an average of less than 1 pound in 4 weeks, compared with a loss of 2 pounds in 4 weeks in those who did not receive ATP. Although there was no difference in survival time between the 2 groups, those receiving the ATP did have better muscle strength and quality of life.
These researchers concluded that ATP may be the first agent used to have a beneficial effect on the skeletal muscles of persons with cancer who suffer weight loss. They suggested that ATP appears to have the potential to reduce weight loss and improve the quality of life in individuals with lung cancer. Persons with advanced NSCLC may wish to talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of the ATP regimen, or of participating in a clinical trial in which other new treatments for lung cancer or related cachexia are being studied. Sources of information on ongoing clinical trials that can be discussed with a doctor include a comprehensive, easy-to-use service provided by the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) and the Clinical Trials section and service offered by Cancer Consultants.com (www.411cancer.com). (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol 91, No 4, pp 321-328, 2000)