Temporal patterns of the cachectic effects of tumor growth and their relation to systemic levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and IL-6 (interleukin-6) were examined in a rat model of experimental cancer cachexia employing the methylcholanthrene (MCA) sarcoma. Fischer 344 rats, implanted with biotelemeters for measuring temperature and activity, were implanted subdermally with tumor tissue fragments. Ad libitum-fed and pair-fed controls were sham incised. Bioassays for TNF and IL-6 were performed on serial plasma samples, obtained via jugular vein at 3- to 6-day intervals throughout the experimental period. Tumor growth induced significant anorexia, weight loss, and a decline in motor activity corresponding to an increase in mean plasma IL-6 levels, independent of reduced food intake or weight loss alone as shown in pair-fed controls. A significant lowering of body temperature then developed, followed by a two- to threefold increase in water consumption. The patterns of weight loss and temperature reduction differed in rate and degree from those seen with pair feeding.