Pathogenesis of muscle wasting in cancer cachexia: Targeted anabolic and anticatabolic therapies

Kimberlee Burckart, Sorin Beca, Randall J. Urban, Melinda Sheffield-Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: Cancer-related muscle loss, or cachexia, is the cause of death for approximately 2 million people worldwide and severely reduces quality of life. The degree of cachexia is inversely correlated with survival time; however, the exact mechanisms behind cancer-induced muscle wasting remain under investigation. RECENT FINDINGS: Cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-α trigger degradatory pathways through nuclear factor-κB signaling that activate the ubiquitin-proteasome system and muscle proteolysis. Androgen treatment has been shown to reduce inflammatory cytokines and even stimulate anti-inflammatory cytokine production. Amino acid supplementation has been shown to induce muscle protein synthesis in ovarian cancer patients. Summary: Targeted anabolic therapies aimed at preventing or reversing cancer cachexia might involve the combined use of androgens and amino acids working concurrently to enhance muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle protein breakdown. Additional focused clinical studies are needed to identify muscle-specific targets or biomarkers for defined therapeutic approaches to slow or prevent cancer cachexia. In this review, we summarize the pathogenesis of cancer-related muscle wasting and discuss potential interventions at reversing or preventing cancer-related muscle loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-416
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • amino acids
  • androgens
  • cachexia
  • muscle atrophy F box
  • muscle-specific RINGFinger-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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