In children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), diet rich in vitamin A, alpha and beta carotene and carotenoids was found to reduce the risk of developing mucositis or bacterial infections, revealed study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The research was led by Kara Kelly, MD, the Waldemar J. Kaminski Endowed Chair of Pediatrics at Roswell Park and Chair of the Roswell Park Oishei Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Program.
"This is the first study to suggest that a high-quality diet, rather than taking supplements, during ALL treatment may be beneficial in reducing these common toxicities," Dr. Kelly says. "It really backs up what my research team has been promoting: that you can't get these benefits by just taking a dietary supplement. There are protective components in whole foods that you don't get when you take a supplement."
ALL is one of the more common childhood cancers. While it is a potentially curable disease, treatments are linked with high rates of infection and mucositis, an inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the digestive tract.
Of the 513 children involved in this study, 120 patients (23%) who completed a dietary intake survey at the time of their diagnosis developed a bacterial infection and 87 (4%) patients who submitted a dietary intake survey at the end of induction developed mucositis.
The study was part of a larger phase III clinical trial conducted as part of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Consortium, involving nine facilities in North America, from Canada to Puerto Rico.
The results of this study are noteworthy, as there has been some controversy around antioxidant intake during cancer treatment. Some previous work has suggested that antioxidants could negatively affect the impact of treatment. The team reports that consuming antioxidants through foods was neither beneficial nor harmful in terms of rates of high-end induction minimal residual disease or disease-free survival.
"By eating a healthier diet, patients are not doing anything to risk a relapse," Dr. Kelly notes. It's okay for parents to put cheese or other ingredients on the vegetables to make them more palatable, she adds so long as the patients maintain a healthy weight.
To build on this work, Dr. Kelly is leading a pilot study at Roswell Park examining a nutrition education intervention to help promote the adoption of a high-quality diet.