Telephone-based weight loss program can help people with breast cancer lose weight

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In a new clinical trial, a telephone-based weight loss program has demonstrated effectiveness in helping patients with breast cancer who are overweight or obese lose a significant amount of weight.

The research, which will be reported by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, lays the groundwork for future research into whether such a program could enhance patients’ survival and lower their risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Understanding Obesity and Breast Cancer Risks

“It’s known that women with obesity when they are diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of dying of the disease, developing second cancers, and dying from any cause,” explained Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, the principal investigator of the trial from Dana-Farber.

However, it’s not yet understood if helping patients lose weight after diagnosis can improve their treatment outcomes, which is what the study sought to find out.

Details of the Breast Cancer Weight Loss Trial

The Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) trial is a Phase III trial supported by the National Cancer Institute.

It involved nearly 3,200 women diagnosed with stage 2 or 3 HER2-negative breast cancer from over 600 cancer treatment centers across the U.S. and Canada.

After completing chemotherapy and radiation therapy, participants were randomly assigned to receive either a telephone-based weight loss program with health education or health education alone.

The telephone-based weight loss program offered guidance to patients on reducing calorie intake and increasing exercise.

Participants’ height and weight were measured at the start of the study and again after 12 months.

The Impact of the Weight Loss Program

The researchers found that the weight loss program was highly effective.

Women who participated in the telephone-based intervention lost an average of 4.8% of their baseline body weight, while those in the control group saw an average 0.9% increase in body weight.

These findings were consistent regardless of participants’ age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education level, and type of breast cancer.

“We’ll continue to follow patients who enrolled in the BWEL trial to determine whether the weight-loss program reduces the risk of cancer recurrence and cancer-related mortality,” Dr. Ligibel stated.

“We hope this research ultimately shows that healthy lifestyle change after a cancer diagnosis has a positive impact on outcomes, so we’ll be able to routinely offer this type of program to patients as a part of their breast cancer care.”

The results from the BWEL trial will be presented at the Oral Abstract Session on Symptoms and Survivorship during ASCO in Chicago on June 5, 2023.

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