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A glimmer of hope… Is it possible to stop cancer-induced weight loss? | Health

Cancer wasting is a syndrome of weight loss, anorexia, weakness and anemia. The physical deterioration that accompanies wasting can make a person weak, tired, unable or unwilling to eat, and have worrisome changes in their appearance. These problems can make daily activities difficult, if not impossible, according to the National Cancer Institute.

It is estimated that up to 80% of people with advanced cancer will suffer from wasting, depending on the type of cancer and the patient's response to treatment. It is thought that up to 30% of cancer deaths are directly caused by wasting, most commonly heart or respiratory failure related to muscle loss.

He said Eurek Alert quoted Professor Bo Lee of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the United States as saying: “Most cancer patients die from cancerous consumption rather than from the cancer itself. When patients enter this stage, there is no way to recover because. The cure is basically non-existent.”

Is there a ray of hope that can save cancer patients from wasting away?

Doctor behind patient in wheelchair
Cancer-related costs directly cause up to 30% of cancer deaths (pixels)

Waste and hijacking of the immune response

Cancer is a malignant disease that hijacks healthy biological processes during its progression and exploits them to grow and spread. For example, when a tumor elevates levels of the interleukin-6 molecule (a member of the immune system), it hijacks the body's immune response and causes it to go to work, which can cause severe brain dysfunction, leading to the progression to cancerous wasting disease in approximately 50-80% of cases.

A ray of hope

However, Professor Lee and other researchers from four laboratories found that blocking interleukin 6 from binding to neurons in a part of the brain called the aftershock zone prevented cancerous wasting in mice, causing them to live longer and have healthier brain function. He said future drugs targeting these neurons could help make wasting cancer a treatable disease. Look for Professor Lee and his colleagues published their paper in Nature Communications on July 1.

Interleukin-6 plays a vital role in the natural immune response because its molecules are found throughout the body and when faced with a potential threat, they alert the brain to coordinate a response. Cancer disrupts this process.

The body produces large amounts of interleukin 6, which begins to bind to nerve cells in the back of the brain. Lee says the cancer's action of neutralizing interleukin 6 “can lead to a number of consequences, one of which is that both animals and humans stop eating, and another is the activation of a response that leads to the wasting syndrome.”

Dual approach

The team took a two-pronged approach to prevent elevated levels of interleukin-6 from reaching the brains of mice. The first strategy was to neutralize the interleukin-6 molecule with a custom antibody, and the second was to significantly reduce the levels of the interleukin-6 receptor in the mice. Both strategies produced the same results: the mice began to crave food again, stopped losing weight, and lived longer.

For Professor Li, the effects were astonishing. “The brain is so powerful in regulating peripheral systems that changing just a few neurons in the brain can have a profound effect on the function of the entire body,” he said. “I knew there was an interaction between tumors and brain function, but not to this degree.”

Li added that his team is now determined to figure out how to translate this discovery into benefiting patients, “If we can use what we learn to prevent or treat cancer wasting, we could significantly improve patients' quality of life, which could one day have a significant impact on many people's lives.”


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