Cachexia is defined as a syndrome characterized by loss of muscle (at least 5% of body weight) with or without loss of fat mass. Lack of appetite, inflammation and insulin resistance are also associated with this syndrome, and, is the result of metabolic alterations of malignant diseases and chronic non-malignant diseases such as heart failure, kidney disease, neurological disease, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and, cancer, where the metabolic alterations can be the result of the chemotherapy treatment.
Half of cancer related deaths can be attributed to this disorder and according to the National Cancer Institute cachexia can be developed in many types of cancer, but it is more frequently associated to pancreatic, gastric, lung, esophageal, colorectal and head and neck cancer. Its diagnosis is based on the amount of weight loss and body mass index.
Only nutrition, including parenteral nutrition does not stop the loss of weight, however, cachexia is not an inevitable consequence of cancer. Nowadays it is known that certain proteins play a pivotal role in this disease such as, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin (IL) -1, -6 and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), therefore therapeutic strategies blocking these specific proteins are been developed. Drugs like ALD 518 (blocks IL-6) and OHR118 (blocks IL-6 and TNF-α) are in phase II trial showing promising results just as increase in hemoglobin levels and muscular mass in NSCLC patients.
Another drug in preclinical studies is a protein called ghrelin, with great results being improvement in appetite, body weight and mass some of them.
All these studies represent a big step in the way of ameliorating the life quality in cancer patients, therefore there is still much left to do. Here in Althian we work every day to improve the life quality of our patients in the many studies we have. Do not hesitate to contact us for more information.