Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Weighs in on Obesity Debate; Finds No Connection Between BMI, Leukemia Outcomes in Adults

Friday, June 4, 2010
BUFFALO, NY — Researchers from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center have found no significant connection between body mass index (BMI) and clinical outcome in adult patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Results of this study will be presented Saturday, June 5, 2010 at the 46th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, IL.

Because there’s a strong link between obesity and poor outcomes for pediatric patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) or with AML, the team, led by first author Hun Lee, MD, a Clinical Fellow in the Department of Medicine at Roswell Park, and senior researcher Meir Wetzler, MD, FACP, Chief of the Leukemia Section, Department of Medicine, set out to determine whether obesity affected outcome for 329 similarly treated adult AML patients — 69.8% of whom were diagnosed with primary AML, and 30.2% of whom had secondary AML. Patients were treated with high-dose cytarabine and idarubicin regimens at Roswell Park between September 1992 and December 2008. The median follow-up period was 12.9 months, and 54% of patients were over age 60.

Analysis of study data showed that age, karyotype, primary (as opposed to secondary) presentation and smoking status — but not BMI or white blood cell count — were statistically significant as independent predictors of overall survival and progression-free survival.

“This was a surprise to us, because in pediatric acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphocytic leukemia, clearly the outcome is worse for heavy kids,” says Dr. Wetzler.

"The study results rule out the possibility that a high BMI will adversely affect outcomes for adult AML patients,” he adds. “That’s important for clinicians to know, and it’s good news because it tells us that the standard firstline treatment is well-tolerated by most AML patients.”

The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Roswell Park, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit Roswell Park’s website at, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email

Editor’s note: Dr. Lee will present the results of this study, “Obesity: A risk factor for acute myeloid leukemia? Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center weighs in on the obesity debate,” on Saturday, June 5 from 8am to noon as part of the Leukemia, Myelodysplasia, and Transportation general poster session at the ASCO annual meeting, in S Hall A2 at the McCormick Place Convention Center, Chicago.

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Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager