Cancer cachexia: it's time for more clinical trials

Maurizio Bossola, Fabio Pacelli, Antonio Tortorelli, Giovan Battista Doglietto
Annals of Surgical Oncology 2007, 14 (2): 276-85
Cancer cachexia (CC) is a multifactorial paraneoplastic syndrome characterized by anorexia, body weight loss, loss of adipose tissue and skeletal muscle, accounting for at least 20% of deaths in neoplastic patients. CC significantly impairs quality of life and response to anti-neoplastic therapies, increasing morbidity and mortality of cancer patients. Muscle wasting is the most important phenotypic feature of CC and the principal cause of function impairment, fatigue and respiratory complications, mainly related to a hyperactivation of muscle proteolytic pathways. Most current therapeutic strategies to counteract CC have proven to be only partially effective. In the last decade, the correction of anorexia, the inhibition of catabolic processes and the stimulation of anabolic pathways in muscle have been attempted pharmacologically with encouraging results in animal models and through preliminary clinical trials. However, data in the clinical setting are still scanty and non definitive. It is time to start prospective, randomized, controlled trials to evaluate which drugs are effective in counteracting the loss of lean of muscle mass and in improving nutritional status and quality of life in patients affected by cancer-related cachexia.

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