Cancer cachexia: a multifactoral disease that needs a multimodal approach

Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2020 Mar;36(2):141-146. doi: 10.1097/MOG.0000000000000603.


Purpose of review: Cancer cachexia is a complex condition that occurs in approximately 50% of cancer patients and in 80% of those with advanced cancer. It is characterized by lean body mass loss, adipose tissue loss, altered metabolism, increased inflammation, and a decrease in quality of life. Cancer cachexia is a frustrating condition to manage and treatment requires an innovative approach. The purpose of this article is to review the current treatments for cancer cachexia and how they could be used in a multimodal approach.

Recent findings: Cancer cachexia has many causes, but is primarily a result of reduced energy-protein intake and altered metabolism augmented by a proinflammatory state. There is not a formal consensus on diagnosing cancer cachexia, but proactive screening and assessments for malnutrition are an effective first step toward identifying high-risk patients. Treatment of cancer cachexia includes optimizing nutrition care, using appropriate pharmacological agents, preserving lean body mass, and the cooperation of the healthcare team.

Summary: Cancer cachexia is a complex multifactorial condition that can only be successfully managed and treated with a multimodal approach that involves a multidisciplinary team that includes an oncology registered dietitian nutritionist and exercise physiologist that target early detection and management of cancer cachexia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cachexia / diagnosis
  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Cachexia / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / complications*