Cachexia: A therapeutic approach beyond cytokine antagonism

S. Von Haehling, S. Genth-Zotz, S. D. Anker, H. D. Volk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cachexia is seen in a number of chronic diseases, and it is always associated with a poor prognosis. Irrespective of etiology, the development of cachexia appears to share a common pathophysiological pathway. This includes induction of proteasome-dependent myofibril-degradation, which is thought to be secondary to stimulation by enhanced levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Elevation of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) and other plasma cytokines has been demonstrated in many conditions associated with cachexia. Despite improved pathophysiological understanding, a specific treatment for cachexia has not yet been established. Whilst direct TNFα antagonism has therapeutic appeal, this review will focus on manipulation of downstream pathways and the potential benefits. For example, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is one of the most important signal transducers of TNFα, and drugs targeting this signalling cascade might be useful in the treatment of cachexia. Although the use of some of these substances, for example glucocorticoids, remains controversial, others may prove beneficial in the treatment of this syndrome. The role of other approaches such as proteasome-inhibitors remains to be elucidated. Alternatively, interleukin-10 and other immunosuppressive cytokines may also be able to counterbalance certain features of cachexia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-183
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Cardiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Cachexia
  • Immunosuppression
  • NF-κB
  • Tumor necrosis factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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