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Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2016;17(13):1147-1152.

Mechanisms of Anorexia Cancer Cachexia Syndrome and Potential Benefits of Traditional Medicine and Natural Herbs.

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  • 1Department of comprehensive oncology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Cancer Hospital Beijing 100021, China.


Anorexia cancer cachexia syndrome is prevalent in advanced cancer patients, which is featured by anorexia, decreased dietary intake, body weight loss (skeletal muscle mass loss), and is unable to be reversed by routine nutritional support therapy. Up to now, the main mechanisms involved in cancer cachexia include excessive systemic inflammation, which is represented by increased plasma levels of IL-1, IL-6, TNF-alpha, tumor-induced factors, such as PIF and LMF. These factors eventually act on orexigenic and anorexigenicneurons located in the hypothalamus or protein and lipid metabolism of peripheral tissues, which lead to anorexia, decreased dietary intake, enhanced basic metabolism rate and hypercatabolism. The treatment modality includes early nutritional intervention, physical activity and drug treatment. However, studies about drugs used to treat cachexia are always controversial or merely effective in stimulating appetite and increasing body weight, though not lean body mass. The main target of pharmaceutical treatment is to improve appetite, decrease systemic inflammation and promote anabolic metabolism. Nevertheless, the treatment effectiveness of chemical drugs are not reaching consensus by existing cachexia guidelines. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is recently known as a promising treatment to improve cachaxia status and quality of life of cancer patients. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and natural herbal medicines have been used in the treatment of cancer for thousands of years worldwide, particularly in China. More and more research show that traditional Hanfang (Chinese medicines) and some natural herbs with less side reactions, have the effects of antagonizing pro-inflammatory cytokines, enhancing immune system, inhibiting protein catabolism, boosting the appetite and body weight, which maybe a promising treatment strategy and development tendency for anorexia cancer cachexia syndrome.

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