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Cachexia, Some have heard me talk of this in Chat sometimes!


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Cancer and Muscle Weakness

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S. (after heart disease). This year, the American Cancer Society estimates more than 1.4 million cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. More than 500,000 Americans will die of the disease.

Some cancer patients develop a progressive form of muscle loss, called cachexia. The condition may be accompanied by profound weight loss (as much as 30 percent of pre-cancer weight), anemia, insulin resistance and extreme fatigue. The condition affects 80 percent of patients with advanced cancer. It is also more likely to occur in patients with certain types of cancer, like pancreatic, lung, colon, gastrointestinal and prostate cancers. Men tend to have worse symptoms than women.

Cachexia can be very debilitating. In addition to changes in body image, the condition can cause significant weakness and fatigue. Patients are less likely to respond to or tolerate chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. In fact, researchers say cachexia is responsible for 20 percent of all cancer deaths.

Targeting a Treatment for Muscle Loss

Currently, there is no effective treatment for cancer-related muscle loss. Calorie-rich diets and steroids improve appetite and add body fat, but don’t build muscle.

Researchers at Scottsdale Healthcare in Scottsdale, AZ, are testing a treatment which blocks the effects of myostatin, a protein that blocks or slows the growth of skeletal muscle. Normally, this protein prevents the body from going overboard and building too much muscle. In theory, using an anti-myostatin drug to block the effects of this protein may prevent the body from inhibiting muscle growth and slow or reverse muscle decline for cancer patients.

Study participants undergo tests of strength and muscle measurement before and after the study. The anti-myostatin drug is given every two weeks for two months. During that time, patients will have blood tests and be evaluated frequently for side effects. It’s a phase I study, so researchers are looking at different doses of the drug to determine safety of the treatment and the best dosage level to use.

Research Director Gayle Jameson, M.S.N., A.C.N.P., A.O.C.N., says currently, it’s too early to determine if the drug will be of any benefit. However, animal studies suggest blocking the action of myostatin leads to a significant increase in muscle size. So investigators are hopeful the treatment will have the same effect in humans.

The study is only taking place at Scottsdale Healthcare. Researchers are interested in enrolling patients with advanced cancer, especially men with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer who are receiving hormone therapy. Patients must be strong enough to be able to walk into the clinic and have good liver and kidney function. Patients who are currently receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy are not eligible. AUDIENCE INQUIRY

If you have any specific concerns about cancer or it’s effects on your body, talk with an oncologist or your health care provider. For general information:

American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org

National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov

Copyright 2009 by WSOCTV.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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