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- Published online on: March 1, 1997 https://doi.org/10.3892/ijo.10.3.565
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Cancer cachexia is a complex syndrome accounting for nearly a third of cancer deaths, characterized by weight loss, anorexia, weakness, anaemia and asthenia. The complications associated with the appearance of the cachectic syndrome affect both the physiological and biochemical balance of the patient, and have effects on the efficiency of the anticancer treatment. At the metabolic level, cachexia is associated with loss of skeletal muscle protein together with a depletion of body lipid stores. The metabolic changes are partially mediated by alterations in circulating hormone concentrations or in their effectiveness. On the other hand, a large number of observations point towards cytokines as the molecules responsible for the referred metabolic derangements. The present study reviews the changes in metabolic environment which are found in the host during tumour burden, as well as the possible role of TNF (tumour necrosis factor) as a mediator of cachexia.