GDF15/GFRAL Pathway as a Metabolic Signature for Cachexia in Patients with Cancer

J Cancer. 2021 Jan 1;12(4):1125-1132. doi: 10.7150/jca.50376. eCollection 2021.


Cachexia is a metabolic mutiny that directly reduces life expectancy in chronic conditions such as cancer. The underlying mechanisms associated with cachexia involve inflammation, metabolism, and anorexia. Therefore, the need to identify cachexia biomarkers is warranted to better understand catabolism change and assess various therapeutic interventions. Among inflammatory proteins, growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF15), an atypical transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) superfamily member, emerges as a stress-related hormone. In inflammatory conditions, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, GDF15 is a biomarker for disease outcome. GDF15 is also implicated in energy homeostasis, body weight regulation, and plays a distinct role in cachexia. The recent discovery of its receptor, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family receptor α-like (GFRAL), sheds light on its metabolic function. Herein, we critically review the mechanisms involving GDF15 in cancer cachexia and discuss therapeutic interventions to improve outcomes in people living with cancer.

Keywords: GDF15; GFRAL; Inflammation; cachexia; cancer.

Publication types

  • Review