This article and others that focused on the clinical features, mechanisms, and epidemiology of skeletal muscle loss and wasting in chronic diseases, which include chronic kidney disease, cancer, and AIDS, were presented at a symposium entitled "Cachexia and Wasting: Recent Breakthroughs in Understanding and Opportunities for Intervention," held at Experimental Biology 2009. The clinical and anabolic efficacy of specific growth factors and anabolic steroids (eg, growth hormone, testosterone, megestrol acetate) in malnutrition and other catabolic states has been the subject of considerable research during the past several decades. Research on the effects of these agents in cachexia or wasting conditions, characterized by progressive loss of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, focused on patients with AIDS in the early 1990s, when the devastating effects of the loss of body weight, lean body mass, and adipose tissue were recognized as contributors to these patients' mortality. These same agents have also been studied as methods to attenuate the catabolic responses observed in cancer-induced cachexia and in wasting induced by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, renal failure, and other conditions. This article provides an updated review of recent clinical trials that specifically examined the potential therapeutic roles of growth hormone, testosterone, oxandrolone, and megestrol acetate and emerging data on the orexigenic peptide ghrelin, in human cachexia and wasting.