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By Barbara Black
It usually takes a little longer for students to be honoured for their research, but Jason Reinglas, a third-year undergraduate student in the Department of Exercise Science, has won an international award for research with significant implications for the quality of life and survival of cancer patients.
Reinglas was presented with the Young Investigators Award at the fourth Cachexia Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, for his research poster, “Assessing quadriceps muscle strength in newly-diagnosed advanced cancer patients: test-retest reliability and correlational analyses.”
“When Jason was informed of his award, he was speechless, and our research team are extremely proud,” said his professor, Robert Kilgour, in an email. “The judges commented on the quality and content of the poster, as well as the unique application of his research to cancer cachexia.”
Cachexia is the term given to tissue wasting in the form of fat and muscle loss that occurs in many disease states and conditions, such as cancer, COPD, HIV/AIDS, cardiac failure, rheumatoid arthritis, frailty and burn victims.
“The fact that an international panel of experts in the field of cachexia reviewed all the posters of authors under age 40 and viewed Jason's poster as the one that deserved the award is quite extraordinary,” Kilgour said.
“Most, if not all, of the students presenting at this conference were graduate students from research labs and programs around the world. Jason is truly an exceptional undergraduate student; he is a Faculty of Arts and Science Scholar and dean’s list student.”
Kilgour explained the importance of research on cachexia. “Muscle strength is clearly an important determinant of functional performance, and it needs to be assessed accurately and reliably. In most forms of advanced cancer, muscle wasting eventually occurs and it signals a rapid and spiraling decline in physical and psychological health.
“Since strength is an important parameter of one's physical health, we need to document when the loss of muscle strength occurs so that clinicians (e.g., oncologists and palliative care physicians) would be better able to treat their patients, both nutritionally and medically.
“Jason's study is an initial attempt to accurately and reliably assess limb muscle strength using BIODEX technology in this population and to correlate strength with DXA-derived muscle mass measurements. “
The research Reinglas is doing is part of the ongoing work of the McGill Nutrition and Performance Laboratory. MNUPAL is a specialized clinical research facility designed to assist and evaluate patients with advanced chronic diseases who are suffering from poor appetite, fatigue, malnutrition and loss of function.
The Laboratory has a team of physicians, dieticians, nurses, physiotherapists, and kinesiologists, of which Kilgour is one, studying the biological causes of these symptoms and how, through nutritional changes and rehabilitation, this process can be reversed. Their aim is to enable patients with incurable and advanced diseases to maintain dignity, function and a high quality of life.
Kilgour said in his email, “Eventually, we will use this form of assessment to gauge how effective nutritional supplements, medications (e.g., steroids, appetite stimulants, etc.), and strength training programs (or any combination of these three interventions) are in maintaining strength and muscle mass in the advanced cancer patient.
“Our goal in this research program is to preserve the patient's quality of life, to reduce the number of hospitalizations, and to prolong their life in a meaningful way.”
Robert Kilgour is one of several outstanding researchers who will talk about their work at the Back-to-School Faculty Showcase on Jan. 26, as part of the Concordia 2008 Open House. For more on the Faculty Showcase, please go to What’s On.