JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

[Pathogenesis and treatment of cancer anorexia-cachexia, with special emphasis on aged patients]

Akio Inui
Nihon Ronen Igakkai Zasshi. Japanese Journal of Geriatrics 2004, 41 (5): 460-7
15515719
Cachexia is among the most debilitating and life-threatening aspects of cancer and is more common in children and elderly patients. Associated with anorexia, fat and muscle tissue wasting, psychological distress, and a lower quality of life, cachexia arises from a complex interaction between the cancer and the host. This process results from a failure of the adaptive feeding response seen in simple starvation and includes cytokine production, release of lipid-mobilizing and proteolysis-inducing factors, and alterations in intermediary metabolism. Cytokines play a pivotal role in long-term inhibition of feeding by mimicking the hypothalamic effect of excessive negative feedback signaling from leptin, a hormone secreted by adipose tissue, which is an integral component of the homeostatic loop of body weight regulation. This could be caused by persistent inhibition of the feeding-stimulatory circuitry including neuropeptide Y. Cachexia should be suspected in patients with cancer if an involuntary weight loss of greater than five percent of premorbid weight occurs within a 3-6-month period. The two major options for pharmacological therapy have been either progestational agents or corticosteroids. However, knowledge of the mechanisms of cancer anorexia-cachexia syndrome has led to, and continues to lead to, effective therapeutic interventions for several aspects of the syndrome. These include antiserotonergic drugs, gastroprokinetic agents, branched-chain amino acids, eicosapentanoic acid, cannabinoids, melatonin, and thalidomide all of which act on the feeding-regulatory circuitry to increase appetite and inhibit tumor-derived catabolic factors to antagonize tissue wasting and/or host cytokine release. Because weight loss shortens the survival time of cancer patients and decreases performance status, effective therapy would extend patient survival and improve quality of life.

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