Why do Cancer Patients Lose Weight?
The patient who is suffering from the end stage of cancer and AIDS was seen to lose weight rapidly. The reason for the sudden loss in weight was attributed by some people to be reduction in metabolism or loss of healthy tissue as there is abnormal growth of cancer cells. The weight loss that was observed as extremely unexpected in patients with last stage of the malignancies was found to be due to cancer cachexia. At this stage, the patients will appear weak and gaunt. Some scientists had a doubt that the sudden weight loss was probably due to certain inflammatory chemicals called as cytokines which are usually produced by the immune system. Cytokines were also known to maintain the other activities of immune system.
The research studies say that these signals released by the cancer cells will pass into the blood stream which causes suppression of the appetite. The actual signals that are involved in doing this are not identified properly. A substance called MIC-1 or macrophage inhibitory cytokine 1 was found to be responsible for weight loss. The levels of MIC-1 in the blood of patients with prostate cancer were associated with the loss of weight in the presence of tumor. This weight loss was controlled when antibodies against this chemical called MIC-1 was given to the patients.
The MIC-1 chemical was found to be causing suppression of appetite by attaching to the receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain. The blocking of this activity may bring a way to start nourishing the cancer patients and stop them losing weight. The above scientific study was conducted in by Heiko Johnen and others. Their work was published in the journal of Nature Medicine in November 2007.