Cancer Cachexia: Its Mechanism and Clinical Significance

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Aug 6;22(16):8491. doi: 10.3390/ijms22168491.


The term "cachexia" is derived from the Greek words kakos (bad) and hexis (habit). Cachexia is a malnutrition associated with chronic diseases such as cancer, chronic heart failure, chronic renal failure, and autoimmune diseases, and is characterized by decreased skeletal muscle mass. Cancer cachexia is quite common in patients with advanced cancer. Weight loss is also a characteristic symptom of cancer cachexia, along with decreased skeletal muscle mass. As nutritional supplementation alone cannot improve cachexia, cytokines and tumor-derived substances have been attracting attention as its relevant factors. Cancer cachexia can be also associated with reduced chemotherapeutic effects, increased side effects and treatment interruptions, and even poorer survival. In 2011, a consensus definition of cachexia has been proposed, and the number of relevant research reports has increased significantly. However, the pathogenesis of cachexia is not fully understood, and there are currently few regulatory-approved standard treatments for cachexia. The main reason for this is that multiple etiologies are involved in the development of cachexia. In this review, we will outline the current status of cachexia, the mechanisms of which have been elucidated in recent years, especially from the perspective of advanced cancer.

Keywords: advanced cancer; cachexia; mechanism; multidisciplinary intervention; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anilides / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Cachexia / diagnosis
  • Cachexia / etiology*
  • Cachexia / physiopathology
  • Cachexia / therapy
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Hydrazines / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Oligopeptides / therapeutic use


  • Anilides
  • Hydrazines
  • Oligopeptides
  • anamorelin
  • ostarine