Extending the boundaries of treatment: continuing care through research


MUHC opens interdisciplinary research lab to halt cancer-associated body wasting

Montreal, April 3, 2007 – More than 30 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime — a disease that causes devastating effects, including weight loss and decline of body functions. Referred to globally as cachexia, these effects have a significant impact on a patient's ability to withstand treatment and survive. As a result, the McGill Nutrition and Performance Laboratory (MNUPAL) of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) opened its doors today.

This unique and innovative laboratory will provide continuing care through research by applying an interdisciplinary research approach to the causes underlying the body-wasting syndrome related to progressive or chronic diseases such as cancer.

"In the coming years, as new treatments improve the lifespan of patients, we will see more people affected by cachexia," says MUHC palliative care physician and MNUPAL Director, Dr. Antonio Vigano. "Our goal is to put a halt to this deterioration by combining optimal pain and symptom management, nutritional/functional evaluations and interventions, in concert with cancer treatments."

"With people living longer with cancer, we are compelled to find ways to improve our patients' functional abilities and quality of life," adds Dr. Robert Kilgour, Associate Director of MNUPAL and Chair of the Department of Exercise Science at Concordia University.

The MNUPAL will evaluate and treat patients who are experiencing weight loss, declined function, poor appetite or fatigue, in association with their advanced cancer. The interdisciplinary team, including physicians, researchers, dieticians, nurses and physiotherapists, will assess each patient's functional and nutritional status using ultra-modern technology. This information, combined with a series of routine blood tests, will be used to build personalized treatment regimes that will complement other medical care. "At MNUPAL, our team is ready to extend care beyond the current boundaries of treatment and we are primed to respond, not only to the medical needs, but also to the functional and nutritive demands of our patients," says Dr. Kilgour.

"We are fortunate to work in coordination with the clinical services available at the MUHC and the other McGill affiliated care facilities. In particular the partnership with the McGill Cancer Nutrition and Rehabilitation Program makes possible this kind of comprehensive care," adds Dr. Vigano, assistant professor of palliative care medicine at McGill University.

In addition, the following research goals will be addressed to better characterize cancer-associated cachexia and generate future treatment regimes:

  • Profile the changes in body composition and functional status associated with advanced cancer;
  • Identify the biological substances or genetic characteristics, which may be responsible for the cancer-associated loss of muscle, fat and function;
  • Determine the nutritional and functional measures that predict survival and response to treatments after the diagnosis of terminal cancer;
  • Validate the bedside tests that measure nutritional and functional status in advanced chronic disease;
  • Profile the functional and nutritional status in frail, elderly patients;
  • Conduct research in patients with cancer-related lymphedema; and
  • Select, treat and monitor patients participating in clinical trials for the treatment of adverse nutritional and functional sequaela in advanced chronic diseases.

"MNUPAL is a unique setting that will contribute to increasing our understanding of cancer cachexia, from its causes to its consequences," says Dr. José Morais, MUHC geriatrician and Associate Director of MNUPAL. "Our vision is to enable patients with advancing cancer to maintain their physical function capacity and a high quality of life and dignity throughout the course of their illness."

April is National Cancer Awareness month.

Contact Information

Seeta Ramdass
Office Phone: 
514-934-1934 ext. 34320