Muscle-to-tumor crosstalk: The effect of exercise-induced myokine on cancer progression

Biochim Biophys Acta Rev Cancer. 2022 Sep;1877(5):188761. doi: 10.1016/j.bbcan.2022.188761. Epub 2022 Jul 16.


Physical exercise has gradually become a focus in cancer treatment due to its pronounced role in reducing cancer risk, enhancing therapeutic efficacy, and improving prognosis. In recent decades, skeletal muscles have been considered endocrine organs, exerting their biological functions via the endocrine, autocrine, and paracrine systems by secreting various types of myokines. The amount of myokines secreted varies depending on the intensity, type, and duration of exercise. Recent studies have shown that muscle-derived myokines are highly involved the effects of exercise on cancer. Multiple myokines, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), oncostatin M (OSM), secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC), and irisin, directly mediate cancer progression by influencing the proliferation, apoptosis, stemness, drug resistance, metabolic reprogramming, and epithelial-mesenchymal transformation (EMT) of cancer cells. In addition, IL-6, interleukin-8 (IL-8), interleukin-15 (IL-15), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and irisin can improve obesity-induced inflammation by stimulating lipolysis of adipose tissues, promoting glucose uptake, and accelerating the browning of white fat. Furthermore, some myokines could regulate the tumor microenvironment, such as angiogenesis and the immune microenvironment. Cancer cachexia occurs in up to 80% of cancer patients and is responsible for 22%-30% of patient deaths. It is characterized by systemic inflammation and decreased muscle mass. Exercise-induced myokine production is important in regulating cancer cachexia. This review summarizes the roles and underlying mechanisms of myokines, such as IL-6, myostatin, IL-15, irisin, fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) and musclin, in cancer cachexia. Through comprehensive analysis, we conclude that myokines are potential targets for inhibiting cancer progression and the associated cachexia.

Keywords: Cachexia; Cancer; Exercise; Muscle; Myokine.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Cachexia / metabolism
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Fibronectins / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interleukin-15 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myostatin* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Oncostatin M / metabolism
  • Osteonectin / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Fibronectins
  • Interleukin-15
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Myostatin
  • Osteonectin
  • Oncostatin M
  • Glucose
  • Cysteine