Cancer cachexia is a multifactorial metabolic syndrome of nutritional depletion that is defined by ongoing skeletal muscle mass loss (with or without loss of fat mass). It cannot be fully reversed by conventional nutritional support, and it leads to progressive functional impairment. Cachexia affects at least one-half of all cancer patients, and is associated with worsened patient morbidity, reduced quality of life, and increased mortality. It is estimated that cancer cachexia may be the direct cause of death in approximately 50% of cancer patients, although the exact figure is unknown. Although cachexia represents a profound clinical problem, it is a complex condition for which a unified strategy for successful management remains elusive.
This lecture will describe: the basic underlying pathophysiology of cachexia and look at the importance of multimodal therapies including nutritional supplementation, exercise interventions and the current research findings within the area.