Topic: NCI Provocative Questions
What mechanisms initiate cachexia in cancer patients, and can we target them to extend lifespan and quality of life for cancer patients?
Background: Cachexia or wasting syndrome is a common, devastating condition seen in many patients who are suffering from the late stages of cancer. When present, cachexia will almost certainly be a component of the actual events that lead to death. Although there have been several previous periods of intense work on cachexia, we still know little about what signals the initiation or maintenance of cachexia. This Provocative Question calls for new studies on the biology of cachexia, the signals that are important for its regulation, and the reasons why it resists reversal.
Feasibility: Modern methods of biological characterization promise to generate new information about the process and control of cachexia. “Omic” studies of affected tissues and of tumors themselves may provide new clues to its origins and the inability to reverse its course. All approaches open to modern in vivo biological studies should be available to characterize and study cachexia. New animal models may be possible to generate and would provide reproducible systems to study this process, and it may be possible to establish genetic, RNAi, TALEN, or chemical biology studies to look for essential features of wasting and its regulation.
Implications of success: Advances in our knowledge about the causes and biology of cachexia will lead to better understanding of this devastating cancer associated event. Whether any of the causes or consequences of cachexia will be treatable is unknown, but any advances will depend on intense study of its biology.