NEW YORK, NY (June 6, 2018)–It’s estimated that nearly one-third of all cancer deaths are caused not by the cancer itself but by cachexia–a debilitating muscle-wasting syndrome that affects an estimated 80 percent of advanced cancer patients. Cachexia is linked to reduced tolerance for cancer therapy, poor quality of life, and accelerated death, but there are no effective treatments and its cause is still largely unknown.
A new study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center suggests that an overload of zinc in patients’ muscles may be the culprit. The findings, published online today in Nature Medicine, could pave the way for the development of drugs to treat or prevent muscle wasting in advanced cancer patients.
Cachexia occurs in many types of cancers, including pancreatic, gastrointestinal, lung, and head and neck cancers. Yet the condition remains poorly understood, due in part to limited research funding in this area, difficulty developing animal models that accurately replicate the condition in human cancer, and a lack of reliable biomarkers to help diagnose cachexia early and monitor its progression during cancer treatment.
“There’s a common misconception that cachexia is just a nutritional problem caused by a loss of appetite stemming from the cancer or
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