Diet-related interventions for cancer-associated cachexia

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2021 May;147(5):1443-1450. doi: 10.1007/s00432-021-03592-9. Epub 2021 Mar 15.


Purpose: Cancer-associated cachexia is a common condition in patients with advanced cancer, and is associated with extreme and involuntary weight loss and irreversible muscle wasting. Despite its high morbidity and mortality, there is no known treatment to reverse its effects. Thus, there is increasing interest in whether diet and exercise can assist in the minimization of cancer-associated cachexia.

Methods: We reviewed the literature on the impact of dietary patterns, dietary components, and exercise on the progress and severity of cancer cachexia.

Results: Although most studies have produced inconclusive or controversial findings, some promising studies using animal models and early human clinical trials suggest that dietary and physical therapy interventions may alleviate cancer-associated cachexia. Moreover, many studies suggest that controlling diet and exercise nevertheless improved the quality of life (QoL) for cancer patients with cachexia.

Conclusion: Ongoing studies will continue to examine whether different forms of multimodal therapy-combinations of cancer treatment, dietary regimens, anti-inflammatory therapy, and physical therapy-are effective methods to improve outcomes in advanced cancer patients with cachexia. Moreover, future studies should examine the effects of such interventions on long-term QoL and establish nutritional guidelines for the management of cancer-associated cachexia.

Keywords: Cachexia; Cancer; Diet; Exercise; Multimodal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cachexia / genetics*
  • Cachexia / physiopathology
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Quality of Life