Malnutrition, anorexia and cachexia are a common finding in cancer patients. They become more evident with tumor growth and spread. However, the mechanisms by which they are sustained often arise early in the history of cancer. For malnutrition, these mechanisms can involve primary tumor or damage by specific treatment such as anticancer therapies (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy) also in cancers that usually are not directly responsible for nutritional and metabolic status alterations (i.e. bone tumors). For anorexia, meal-related neural or hormonal signals and humoral signals related to body fat or energy storage and the interaction of these signals with the hypothalamus or the hypothalamic inappropriate response play a pathogenetic role. Some cytokines are probably involved in these mechanisms. For cachexia, the production of proinflammatory cytokines by tumour cells is the initial mechanism; the main biochemical mechanisms involved include the ubiquitine proteasome-dependent proteolysis and heat shock proteins. Treatment includes pharmaceutical and nutritional interventions.
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