Central mechanisms controlling appetite and food intake in a cancer setting: an update

Autumn L Fletcher, Daniel L Marks
Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care 2007, 1 (4): 306-11

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Cachexia, also known as disease-associated wasting, is an important factor in the mortality of many patients with diseases such as cancer, as well as renal and congestive heart failure. Yet the syndrome is not yet well defined, making diagnosis difficult and often subjective on the part of the physician. Nor are the central mechanisms of cachexia fully elucidated. Recent studies have begun to address these gaps by focusing on three areas: the role of cytokines in cachexia, other proteins and peptides that might be involved, and potential treatments for this devastating syndrome.

RECENT FINDINGS: Cachexia can be caused, in the absence of disease, by inflammatory stimuli and some chemotherapy drugs, suggesting possible central mechanisms in cachexia. Promising treatments include melanocortin antagonism and some hormones.

SUMMARY: While more research is necessary to illuminate causal mechanisms and uncover potential therapies of cachexia, several of its major molecular pathways have become elucidated, suggesting directions for therapeutic approaches.

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