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Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 27;6:30340. doi: 10.1038/srep30340.

Autophagy is induced in the skeletal muscle of cachectic cancer patients.

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Department of Clinical Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.
Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.
Interuniversity Institute of Myology, Italy.
Department of Surgery, M.G. Vannini Hospital, Rome, Italy.
UOSA Chirurgia Bariatrica, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Senese, Siena, Italy.


Basal rates of autophagy can be markedly accelerated by environmental stresses. Recently, autophagy has been involved in cancer-induced muscle wasting. Aim of this study has been to evaluate if autophagy is induced in the skeletal muscle of cancer patients. The expression (mRNA and protein) of autophagic markers has been evaluated in intraoperative muscle biopsies. Beclin-1 protein levels were increased in cachectic cancer patients, suggesting autophagy induction. LC3B-I protein levels were not significantly modified. LC3B-II protein levels were significantly increased in cachectic cancer patients suggesting either increased autophagosome formation or reduced autophagosome turnover. Conversely, p62 protein levels were increased in cachectic and non-cachectic cancer patients, suggesting impaired autophagosome clearance. As for mitophagy, both Bnip3 and Nix/Bnip3L show a trend to increase in cachectic patients. In the same patients, Parkin levels significantly increased, while PINK1 was unchanged. At gene level, Beclin-1, p-62, BNIP3, NIX/BNIP3L and TFEB mRNAs were not significantly modulated, while LC3B and PINK1 mRNA levels were increased and decreased, respectively, in cachectic cancer patients. Autophagy is induced in the skeletal muscle of cachectic cancer patients, although autophagosome clearance appears to be impaired. Further studies should evaluate whether modulation of autophagy could represent a relevant therapeutic strategy in cancer cachexia.

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