Health-related quality of life across cancer cachexia stages
Cancer cachexia (CC) is common in advanced cancer and is accompanied by negative effects on health-related quality of life (HRQOL). However, methods to identify the impact of CC on HRQOL are limited. Single questionnaire items may provide insight on the effect of CC on HRQOL. Specifically, the use of “feeling of wellbeing” (FWB) on the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) questionnaire and the Distress Thermometer (DT) have been explored. Assessing how these two surrogate measures of HRQOL are impacted among CC stages and what drives these negative effects may allow for focused treatments. Five-hundred and twelve patients referred to a Cancer Rehabilitation Program completed the ESAS, with the question on FWB and the DT at baseline. Patients were separated into CC stages: non-cachexia (NC), pre-cachexia (PC), cachexia (C), refractory cachexia (RC). A mixed model ANOVA with post hoc Tukey adjustment was used to compare means of FWB and distress among the CC stages. To understand what was driving the differences between CC stages, a robust regression model was created with either distress or FWB as the outcome measure, dependent on the other measures in ESAS, age and sex. Finally, the use of cannabinoids in treating appetite loss was examined, as it has a detrimental effect on FWB; 54 patients underwent cannabinoid treatment for appetite loss within a community-based, physician-lead, medical cannabis clinic. A t-test to assess changes in ESAS appetite score after 3 months of cannabinoid treatment was examined. RC patients had a significantly poorer sense of wellbeing than the other cachexia stages (RC: 6.07±0.33). Significant differences in distress were identified between RC patients and those with NC and C, but not with PC (RC: 4.87±0.38, NC: 3.35±0.26, PC: 4.11±0.30, C: 3.60±0.28). FWB was negatively affected by worsening appetite in all CC stages except NC (PC: 0.19±0.08, P=0.022; C: 0.26±0.06, P<0.001; RC: 0.23±0.08, P=0.007). ESAS score for lack of appetite significantly improved between baseline (5.07±3.21) and follow-up (3.56±3.15, P=0.003) after cannabinoid treatment, with no significant difference in weight (baseline: 70.7±14.6 kg, 3-month follow-up: 71.0±14.8 kg). Future research should validate both multidimensional and single-item tools to measure HRQOL in patients at different stages of CC. Improvement of HRQOL via appetite stimulation, may be achieved through a multidisciplinary approach, which includes cannabinoid therapy.