Brown adipose tissue in cancer patients: possible cause of cancer-induced cachexia

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 1986;111(1):82-5. doi: 10.1007/BF00402783.


Cachexia is a common manifestation of advanced cancer and frequently contributes to physical disability and mortality. An increased metabolic rate has been suggested to be one of the causes of cancer-induced cachexia, although the mechanisms producing this hypermetabolism remain unclear. The presence and activation of brown adipose tissue, a highly thermogenic tissue, may result in a hypermetabolic state and be partially responsible for weight loss in cancer patients. To investigate this hypothesis, we examined necropsy samples of peri-adrenal tissues using light microscopy to identify the prevalence of brown adipose tissue in 25 cachectic patients who died from cancer and 15 age-matched subjects who died from other illnesses. Brown adipose tissue was observed in 20 of the cancer patients (80%) compared to 2 of the age-matched subjects (13%). Therefore, our preliminary results indicate that a high prevalence of brown adipose tissue is associated with cancer-induced cachexia and may reflect an abnormal mechanism responsible for profound energy expenditure and weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / pathology
  • Aged
  • Body Weight
  • Cachexia / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*