Funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund
Cancer cachexia is a wasting disease with significant fat and muscle loss occurring in 1/3 of all patients with cancer and causing 1/3 of all cancer patient deaths. It is also makes patients not want to eat. Cancer patients with cachexia live half as long as patients with the same cancers without cachexia. These patients have a poor quality of life which prevents them from taking medications to treat their cancer as well. Currently there are no treatments for this wasting disease. Therefore, clinicians often use medications that are not approved by the government to treat cancer cachexia with little benefit.
We aimed to better understand how cancers can cause cachexia wasting in order to create new medications for this disease. Our research has identified a molecule made by cancers that causes fat breakdown and causes decreased food intake. These cancer-secreted factors do this by acting directly on the fat and the part of the brain that controls food intake. These factors also reprogram the fat to secrete other factors that also affect the brain’s appetite center. We believe the combination of these events is responsible for the wasting seen in these cancer patients. Our research proposal will try to identify how these molecules affect the fat tissue and the brain to cause cancer cachexia to help us develop new medications for this under-treated disease. Creating a treatment for cancer cachexia will improve cancer patients’ quality of life and overall life span.