UC Irvine-Led Study Links Biomarkers and Chemotherapy-Related Gastrointestinal Symptoms

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Irvine, Calif., Jan. 24, 2024 — A study led by University of California, Irvine researchers has revealed a connection between blood levels of omega-3 and the inflammatory biomarker interleukin-8 and greater chemotherapy-related gastrointestinal symptoms in breast cancer patients. These predictors may offer new targets for pre-treatment therapeutic approaches to preventing or mitigating symptoms.

The findings, recently published online in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer, showed that higher levels of both biomarkers correlated with increased appetite loss during chemotherapy, while heightened interleukin-8 was associated with worsened nausea and vomiting.

“Our research offers valuable insights into how we can proactively address the challenge of chemotherapy-related GI symptoms,” said corresponding author Alexandre Chan, UCI chair and professor of clinical pharmacy practice. “We believe the predictive value of biomarkers could pave the way for innovative interventions aimed at improving the overall well-being of all cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. This study only focused on breast cancer, so it will be important to investigate how these findings extend to other types of cancer.”

Chemotherapy agents, designed to eliminate cancer cells, inadvertently cause intestinal inflammation, as well as an imbalance in the gut microbiome, which exacerbates the inflammation.

The tumor cells themselves release pro-inflammatory chemicals during their destruction of healthy cells, leading to a wide variety of adverse symptoms, including GI toxicities. Essentially, for patients undergoing treatment, inflammation stems from both the disease and the therapeutic intervention.

The research team conducted a secondary analysis of baseline levels of inflammatory biomarkers and plasma levels among 31 female stage 1-3 breast cancer patients and assessed GI symptoms at the start of chemotherapy and at least six weeks into treatment.

“Chemotherapy-related GI symptoms negatively affect patients’ quality of life and treatment options,” said lead author Daniela Arcos, clinical research coordinator in the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Increasing our understanding of the predictive value of these inflammatory biomarkers is crucial for managing and alleviating the impact of cancer treatment on the gastrointestinal system.”

Other team members included Ding Quan Ng, a Ph.D. candidate in the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences; Yu Ke, a research fellow at the National Cancer Centre Singapore; and Yi Long Toh, a pharmacist at the National University of Singapore.

This work was supported by the National University of Singapore grant R-148-000-166-445, the National Cancer Centre Singapore grant NRFCB12131 and Singapore’s National Medical Research Council grant NMRC/CIRG/1386/2014.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/school-of-pharmacy-and-pharmaceutical-sciences.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.

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