Study from OU Medicine shows why obese patients respond better to immunotherapy

OKLAHOMA CITY - Results of a recent cancer study will likely surprise you. They even surprised researchers!

The study, from OU Medicine cancer researchers, found obese patients have better responses to immunotherapy.

Although the study is promising, it doesn't mean you need to pack on any extra pounds.

Over the years, the Stephenson Cancer Center has provided treatment to a number of patients. But, looking back at their responses to immunotherapy, researchers found a statistic that made them pause.

"We were surprised to find out that obese patients with a body mass index of above 30 did indeed do better in terms of living longer, without their cancer progressing and living longer in general," said Sami Ibrahimi, M.D.

Ibrahimi and Raid Aljumaily, M.D. were part of the team of researchers who combed through four years worth of results to find the information.

The results were consistent with findings from studies at the UC Davis Cancer Center with other experimental models. They said the reason those who are overweight respond better to immunotherapy is because they have more inflammation, which is a key to success.

"Immunotherapy, medications, work by inducing inflammation to energize the immune cells to fight cancer cells," Ibrahimi said.

Doctors said immunotherapy is promising when compared to chemotherapy because it offers more long-term results.

The problem is only about 20 to 30 percent of patients respond to immunotherapy.

Now, their hope is to use the results to find ways to make immunotherapy more effective in all patients - regardless of their BMI.

"So, all the research is going, trying to improve on this response rate and trying to maintain that durability," Aljumaily said.

Doctors want to remind you that obesity still puts you at risk for health problems. They are not encouraging you to gain weight.