Original Research

Burkitt lymphoma – Nutritional support during induction treatment: Effect on anthropometric parameters and morbidity of treatment

Peter B. Hesseling, Mona Tamannai, Elena Ladas, Glenn Afungchwi, Edouard Katayi, Francine Kouya
South African Journal of Oncology | Vol 2 | a53 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajo.v2i0.53 | © 2018 Peter B. Hesseling | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 August 2018 | Published: 22 October 2018

About the author(s)

Peter B. Hesseling, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Mona Tamannai, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Berlin, Germany
Elena Ladas, Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplantation, Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University Medical Center, United States
Glenn Afungchwi, Banso Baptist Hospital, Kumbo, Cameroon
Edouard Katayi, Mutengene Baptist Hospital, Mutengene, Cameroon
Francine Kouya, Mbingo Baptist Hospital, Bamenda, Cameroon


Background: Malnutrition is common in children diagnosed with cancer in Africa, and it adds to the morbidity and mortality of treatment. Nutritional support is known to reduce morbidity and mortality of treatment.

Aim: The aim of this study was to record changes in anthropometric parameters, morbidity and mortality in patients admitted with Burkitt lymphoma (BL) whose diet was supplemented with protein, vitamins and minerals during induction chemotherapy.

Methods: Seventy consecutive newly diagnosed BL patients were enrolled. The diet was supplemented with a daily egg, 200 mL F-75 formula and vitamins. Guardians received 3 cups of dry rice and $1 daily to buy and prepare meals for the patient and themselves whilst in the hospital. Height, weight, triceps skinfold (TSF) and mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) were recorded on days 1 and 28. Co-morbidities at diagnosis were treated, and neutropenia and febrile episodes managed with a standard protocol. Two patients who died within 24 h after admission were excluded from the anthropometric analyses.

Results: The mean age was 8 (range 2–16) years and the male:female ratio was 42:28. The St Jude stage distribution was as follows: Stage I = 6%, II = 4%, III = 69%, IV = 21%. Weight for age was < 10th centile at diagnosis in 18% (but influenced by tumour mass). Weight was unchanged or increased by ≥ 5% in 66% of patients on Day 28. The TSF was < 3rd centile in 47% of patients and increased by ≥ 0.5 cm in 57%. The MUAC was < 3rd centile in 16% of patients at diagnosis and in 10% of patients on Day 28. Febrile episodes in 60% and neutropenia in 18% of patients were successfully treated. Two patients died from presumed renal failure. The overall death rate (including the two deaths within 24 h after admission before chemotherapy was started) was 5.5% (n = 4).

Conclusion: The TSF improved in the majority and the MUAC improved in some patients. Febrile neutropenia and febrile episodes could be successfully managed. The death rate during induction was lower than in our previously published results with the same chemotherapy protocol. Dietary supplementation should be a standard component of treatment in paediatric patients with cancer.


Burkitt lymphoma; nutritional status; anthropometric assessment


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Crossref Citations

1. Two decades of childhood cancer care in Cameroon: 2000–2020
Glenn Mbah Afungchwi, Mariana Kruger, Francine Kouya, Pius Tih, Peter McCormick, Angele‐Hermine Pondy‐Ongotsoyi, Peter B. Hesseling
Pediatric Blood & Cancer  vol: 68  issue: 7  year: 2021  
doi: 10.1002/pbc.28997