Muscle wasting and cachexia have long been postulated to be key determinants of cancer-related death, but there has been no direct experimental evidence to substantiate this hypothesis. Here, we show that in several cancer cachexia models, pharmacological blockade of ActRIIB pathway not only prevents further muscle wasting but also completely reverses prior loss of skeletal muscle and cancer-induced cardiac atrophy. This treatment dramatically prolongs survival, even of animals in which tumor growth is not inhibited and fat loss and production of proinflammatory cytokines are not reduced. ActRIIB pathway blockade abolished the activation of the ubiquitin-proteasome system and the induction of atrophy-specific ubiquitin ligases in muscles and also markedly stimulated muscle stem cell growth. These findings establish a crucial link between activation of the ActRIIB pathway and the development of cancer cachexia. Thus ActRIIB antagonism is a promising new approach for treating cancer cachexia, whose inhibition per se prolongs survival.
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