Cancer cachexia: understanding the molecular basis

Nat Rev Cancer. 2014 Nov;14(11):754-62. doi: 10.1038/nrc3829. Epub 2014 Oct 9.


Cancer cachexia is a devastating, multifactorial and often irreversible syndrome that affects around 50-80% of cancer patients, depending on the tumour type, and that leads to substantial weight loss, primarily from loss of skeletal muscle and body fat. Since cachexia may account for up to 20% of cancer deaths, understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms is essential. The occurrence of cachexia in cancer patients is dependent on the patient response to tumour progression, including the activation of the inflammatory response and energetic inefficiency involving the mitochondria. Interestingly, crosstalk between different cell types ultimately seems to result in muscle wasting. Some of the recent progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms of cachexia may lead to new therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Cachexia / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism