Prognostic value of skeletal muscle mass during tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy in cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Emanuele Rinninella, Marco Cintoni, Pauline Raoul, Francesca Romana Ponziani, Maurizio Pompili, Carmelo Pozzo, Antonia Strippoli, Emilio Bria, Giampaolo Tortora, Antonio Gasbarrini, Maria Cristina Mele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Low muscle mass has been associated with worse clinical outcomes in various cancers. This work investigated whether, during tyrosine kinases inhibitors (TKIs) therapy, low muscle mass was associated with treatment toxicity and survival outcomes. A systematic literature search was performed in Pubmed, Web of Science, and Scopus databases from inception to June 2020, based on fixed inclusion and exclusion criteria. Effect sizes were estimated with hazard ratios (HR) and odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) and heterogeneity was assessed by measuring inconsistency (I2) based on the Chi squared test. A total of 24 retrospective studies were identified, enrolling patients treated with sorafenib (n = 12), sunitinib (n = 6), lenvatinib (n = 3), regorafenib (n = 2), gefitinib (n = 1), imatinib (n = 1), and pazopanib (n = 1). Thirteen studies were deemed eligible for pooled analyses. Meta-analyses found a significant effect of low muscle mass on dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) (OR 2.40, 95% CI 1.26–4.58, p = 0.008, I2 = 51%) in patients treated with TKI therapy. A subgroup analysis by treatment showed an association between DLT and low muscle during sorafenib or sunitinib, although not significant. A significant association between low skeletal muscle index and poorer overall survival was observed in HCC patients treated with sorafenib (HR 1.45, 95% CI 1.07–1.96, p = 0.02). For other TKIs, although some results showed an association between low muscle mass and worse outcomes, the number of studies for each TKI therapy was too small to reach conclusions. Skeletal muscle mass could influence the prognosis of some TKI-treated patients. This effect is demonstrated in sorafenib-treated HCC patients but remains almost unexplored in other cancer patients undergoing TKI therapy. Further prospective studies with large sample size and sufficient follow-up are needed to clarify the role of muscle mass in the metabolism of TKI-based cancer treatment, and its association with toxicity and survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1341-1356
Number of pages16
JournalInternal and Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Chemotherapy toxicity
  • L3 skeletal muscle index
  • Personalized medicine
  • Skeletal muscle mass
  • Survival
  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine


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