Impact of obesity on cancer survival using the Systemic Anti-Cancer Therapy Dataset

Researchers are using an NHS database that captures data for all patients in England that have received cancer treatment in the past decade to better understand survival.

  • Topic: Combination of cancers
  • Institution: University of Oxford
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Status: Ongoing
Researcher: Simon Lord

Grant title: The impact of obesity on survival outcomes following drug treatment for advanced malignancy recorded within the SACT database

While obesity is linked to greater risk of developing cancer the relationship between cancer survival and obesity is less well understood. Indeed some studies have suggested that certain cancer types may have a better prognosis in obese patients. By integrating two large real world cancer treatment and primary healthcare NHS databases WCRF funding will allow us to perform the most comprehensive evaluation of factors that predict for good and bad prognosis in obese cancer patients. We expect that this project will give new insights into why some obese patients fare well with their cancer treatment and others not. This information can then be used in the future to help design clinical trials to test which treatment approach is the best option for patients – Dr Simon Lord


Obesity is known to increase the risk of developing many types of cancer. However, once someone has developed cancer being overweight may mean for some cancer types the prognosis is better but for other types worse. The reasons for this are not fully understood.

Aims and objectives

It is possible that this relationship between obesity and different outcomes after cancer diagnosis may be related to factors such as general ill health of some cancer patients with a low weight, obese patients coming into contact with doctors more often and hence there being a greater likelihood of picking up cancer earlier and some drug treatments working more effectively in obese patients. We plan to investigate this further.

How it will be done

In this study we will use a national NHS database that captures the data for all patients in England that have received cancer drug treatment in the past decade to try and understand how improved survival in obese patients may relate to their cancer treatment and other aspects of their medical history. The study will also look at how many patients in England receiving cancer drug treatment are overweight and any differences in the length of time patients live with cancer for those that are overweight.

Potential impact

This will be the largest study using patient records to assess why some patients with obesity may live longer with cancer whilst other obese patients fare worse. Information from this analysis may help us to identify ways in which we can improve the treatment of both obese and lean patients with cancer.