The influence of nutrition on clinical outcomes in children with cancer
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Adequate and appropriate nutrition is essential for growth and development in children; all put at risk in those with cancer. Overnutrition and undernutrition at diagnosis raise the risk of increased morbidity and mortality during therapy and beyond. All treatment modalities can jeopardize nutritional status with potentially adverse effects on clinical outcomes. Accurate assessment of nutritional status and nutrient balance is essential, with remedial interventions delivered promptly when required. Children with cancer in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are especially disadvantaged with concomitant challenges in the provision of nutritional support. Cost-effective advances in the form of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) may offer solutions. Studies in LMICs have defined a critical role for the gut microbiome in the causation of undernutrition in children and have demonstrated a beneficial effect of selected RUTF in redressing the imbalanced microbiota and improving nutritional status. Challenges in high-income countries relate both to concerns about the potential disadvantage of preexisting obesity in those newly diagnosed and to undernutrition identified at diagnosis and during treatment. Much remains to be understood but the prospects are bright for offsetting malnutrition in children with cancer, resulting in enhanced opportunity for healthy survival.
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