Assessing pathophysiology of cancer anorexia

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2017 Sep;20(5):340-345. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000394.


Purpose of review: Cancer anorexia is a negative prognostic factor and is broadly defined as the loss of the interest in food. However, multiple clinical domains contribute to the phenotype of cancer anorexia. The characterization of the clinical and molecular pathophysiology of cancer anorexia may enhance the efficacy of preventive and therapeutic strategies.

Recent findings: Clinical trials showed that cancer anorexia should be considered as an umbrella encompassing different signs and symptoms contributing to appetite disruption in cancer patients. Loss of appetite, early satiety, changes in taste and smell are determinants of cancer anorexia, whose presence should be assessed in cancer patients. Interestingly, neuronal correlates of cancer anorexia-related symptoms have been revealed by brain imaging techniques.

Summary: The pathophysiology of cancer anorexia is complex and involves different domains influencing eating behavior. Limiting the assessment of cancer anorexia to questions investigating changes in appetite may impede correct identification of the targets to address.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anorexia / diagnosis
  • Anorexia / etiology*
  • Anorexia / prevention & control
  • Appetite Regulation
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / diagnostic imaging
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neuroimaging
  • Olfaction Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Olfaction Disorders / etiology
  • Olfaction Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Olfaction Disorders / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Satiety Response
  • Taste Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Taste Disorders / etiology
  • Taste Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Taste Disorders / therapy