Therapy of muscle wasting in cancer: what is the future?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The aim of the present review is to provide insights into the future therapeutic approaches to cancer-related muscle wasting that flow from the progressive knowledge of mechanisms regulating muscle mass in health and disease.

Recent findings

Cancer cachexia is a severely debilitating and life-threatening paraneoplastic syndrome accounting for approximately 20% of cancer deaths. The prominent clinical feature of cancer cachexia is the progressive loss of muscle mass, which is substantially not reversible with any of the currently available nutritional, metabolic or pharmacological approaches. Cancer cachexia has long been considered a late event in the natural history of cancer patients, thus condemning them to merely palliative interventions. The accumulating evidence that the metabolic and molecular derangements ultimately leading to muscle wasting are operating early after tumour onset, even when weight loss is minimal or absent, is strengthening the view that cancer cachexia should be considered an early phenomenon.

Summary

Currently, despite scientific and economic efforts, the therapy of cancer-related muscle wasting has a poor success rate. Present knowledge of the intracellular mechanisms involved in muscle homeoastasis is prompting continuous research aimed at developing more effective and selective therapeutic tools for the prevention and treatment of muscle loss in cancer.

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