Burden of Cachexia in Lung Cancer Patients

The goal of this study is to understand the burden of cachexia in lung cancer patients and their preferences toward a treatment option for cachexia.

Cancer cachexia is a wasting syndrome characterized by weight loss, anorexia, physical weakness, lack of energy, and anemia. Cachexia is so destructive that it taps into other sources of energy, namely skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, when the body senses a lack of nutrition. Nutritional status is compromised in direct response to tumor-induced alterations in the metabolism.  Cachexia adversely affects patients’ ability to fight against infection and withstand treatment.  As a result, the body begins to waste away.

It is estimated that almost one-third of cancer deaths can be attributed to cachexia. Cachexia occurs in many cancers, usually at the advanced stages of disease. It is most commonly seen in pancreatic and gastric cancer, but it also occurs in lung, esophageal, colorectal, and head and neck cancer.

Despite cachexia's role in cancer patient death and data suggesting that it hinders treatment efforts, there are few options for treatment of cachexia. Typically, oncologists focus on palliation of the symptoms of cachexia and the reduction of distress of patients and families rather than on cure. Standard methods of treatment, such as increase in nutritional uptake, do not reverse loss of appetite and weight loss.

Recently, newer treatment approaches that target the ghrelin axis have been shown to be successful in clinical trials. However, the willingness of lung cancer patients to adopt such treatment strategies is unclear.  LUNGevity Foundation has conducted studies to understand patient preferences about new treatment approaches to cachexia.

Results to Date

  1. Treating Cachexia-Anorexia in Lung Cancer Patients: What Do Patients Want? (Basu Roy et al, poster, WCLC 2016)
  2. Treating Cachexia-Anorexia in Lung Cancer Patients: What Do Patients Want? (Ferris et al, white paper)