L-Carnitine: an adequate supplement for a multi-targeted anti-wasting therapy in cancer

Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;31(6):889-95. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2012.03.005. Epub 2012 May 19.


Background & aims: Tumour growth is associated with weight loss resulting from both adipose and muscle wasting.

Methods: Administration of L-carnitine (1 g/kg body weight) to rats bearing the AH-130 Yoshida ascites hepatoma, a highly cachectic rat tumour.

Results: The treatment results in a significant improvement of food intake and in muscle weight (gastrocnemius, EDL and soleus). These beneficial effects are directly related to improved physical performance (total physical activity, mean movement velocity and total travelled distance). Administration of L-carnitine decreases proteasome activity and the expression of genes related with this activity, such as ubiquitin, C8 proteasome subunit and MuRF-1. Interestingly, L-carnitine treatment also decreases caspase-3 mRNA content therefore suggesting a modulation of apoptosis. Moreover, addition of 50 μM of L-carnitine to isolated EDL muscles results in a significant decrease in the proteolytic rate suggesting a direct effect.

Conclusions: It can be concluded that L-carnitine supplementation may be a good approach for a multi-targeted therapy for the treatment of cancer-related cachexia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cachexia / complications
  • Cachexia / drug therapy
  • Cachexia / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carnitine / pharmacology*
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscular Atrophy / complications
  • Muscular Atrophy / drug therapy*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism


  • Ubiquitin
  • Casp3 protein, rat
  • Caspase 3
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Carnitine