Anorexia and weight loss are part of the wasting syndrome of late-stage cancer, are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in cancer, and are thought to be cytokine mediated. Macrophage inhibitory cytokine-1 (MIC-1) is produced by many cancers. Examination of sera from individuals with advanced prostate cancer showed a direct relationship between MIC-1 abundance and cancer-associated weight loss. In mice with xenografted prostate tumors, elevated MIC-1 levels were also associated with marked weight, fat and lean tissue loss that was mediated by decreased food intake and was reversed by administration of antibody to MIC-1. Additionally, normal mice given systemic MIC-1 and transgenic mice overexpressing MIC-1 showed hypophagia and reduced body weight. MIC-1 mediates its effects by central mechanisms that implicate the hypothalamic transforming growth factor-beta receptor II, extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2, signal transducer and activator of transcription-3, neuropeptide Y and pro-opiomelanocortin. Thus, MIC-1 is a newly defined central regulator of appetite and a potential target for the treatment of both cancer anorexia and weight loss, as well as of obesity.