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Surg Oncol. 1999 Nov;8(3):133-41.

Cancer cachexia.

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University Department of Surgery, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland EH3 9YW, Edinburgh, UK.


Cachexia is a common cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with advanced cancer. It is characterised by numerous metabolic abnormalities including inefficient substrate utilisation, alterations in the balance of energy intake and expenditure and the acute-phase protein response. These changes seem to be driven by pro-inflammatory cytokines, alterations of the neuro-endocrine axis and tumour-derived catabolic factors. This results in the loss of both fat and lean tissue. Trials of conventional nutritional supplements in patients with cancer cachexia have failed to show any benefit in terms of weight gain or quality of life and this may be because the ongoing metabolic abnormalities prevent the efficient use of additional calories supplied. A variety of pharmacological agents have been studied in an attempt to normalise these metabolic changes with only limited success. However, it is possible that the combination of an agent to normalise the metabolic milieu along with the provision of additional nutritional support may have the potential to reverse cachexia in advanced cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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