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BACKGROUND: Gastrointestinal symptoms are common during chemotherapy, but underlying disturbances in gut function and their impact on daily life are unclear. This study investigates gut function in a heterogenous group of cancer patients with gastrointestinal symptoms during chemotherapy and its relation to anabolic response, muscle health, and daily functioning.
METHODS: In 16 patients with solid tumors (mostly stage III+IV) undergoing chemotherapy (T) and 16 healthy (H) matched controls, small-intestinal membrane integrity was measured by urine sugar tests. Protein digestion, absorption, and anabolic response to a conventional protein supplement were analyzed by stable-tracer methods. Muscle mass and strength and daily functioning were assessed.
RESULTS: Eighty-one percent of T patients reported gastrointestinal symptoms. Small-intestinal membrane permeability was similar, but active glucose transport was lower in the T group (T, 35.5% ± 3.4% vs H, 48.4% ± 4.7%; P = .03). Protein digestion and absorption tended to be lower in the T group (0.67 ± 0.02 vs 0.80 ± 0.04; P = .08). Net protein anabolic response to feeding was comparable, although lower in cancer patients with recent weight loss. Gut permeability negatively correlated to hand grip strength, global health, and physical functioning, and active-transport capacity positively correlated to global health in the T group.
CONCLUSION: Advanced cancer patients with gastrointestinal symptoms during chemotherapy, particularly those with recent weight loss, show signs of impaired gut function negatively affecting muscle health, daily functioning, and anabolic response to feeding.
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