The adverse influence of undernutrition in children with cancer may be remediated by early nutritional intervention. This study assessed the efficacy of ready‐to‐use therapeutic food (RUTF) in improving nutritional status and reducing treatment‐related toxicities (TRTs) in such children.
In a randomized controlled phase‐3 open‐label trial, severely and moderately undernourished children with cancer were randomized 1:1 to receive standard nutritional therapy (SNT) or SNT+RUTF for 6 weeks. The primary outcome (weight gain >10%) and secondary outcomes (improved/maintained nutritional status, improved body composition) were assessed after 6 weeks. TRTs were assessed over 6 months.
Between July 2015 and March 2018, 260 subjects were enrolled, 126 were analyzable in both arms at 6 weeks. More children on RUTF had weight gain (98 [77.8%] vs. 81 [64.2%],
p= .025) with a greater increase in fat mass as a percentage of body mass (median 2% [IQR −0.12 to 4.9] vs. 0.5% [IQR −1.45 to 2.27, p= .005]) but a greater loss of lean mass (median −1.86% [IQR −4.4 to 0.50] vs. −0.4% [IQR −2.4 to 1.4, p= .007]) compared to the SNT arm. Fewer subjects on the RUTF arm had episodes of severe infection (10.6% vs. 31%, p< .0001), treatment delays (17.7% vs. 39%, p< .0001), and severe mucositis (11% vs. 23.8%, p= .006) compared to the SNT arm. The odds of developing TRTs on the RUTF arm were lower even after adjusting for improvement in nutritional status. Conclusions
RUTF is efficacious in improving weight gain and nutritional status in undernourished children with cancer and decreases TRTs. Incorporating RUTF into a healthy, balanced diet should be considered in undernourished children with cancer.