Scientists believe they are getting closer to understanding what the sudden and “devastating” weight loss that occurs in patients with advanced cancer is.
Researchers in the UK have found that a gene called GDF15 is associated with cachexia, wasting or reflux, a complex process that causes sudden loss of appetite, fat and muscle in 80% of advanced cancer patients.
According to experts, this is the main cause of death for 20-30% of cancer patients.
The team said the results of the TRACERx study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, could help diagnose the disease before symptoms appear.
Dr. Maryam Jamal Khanjani, Clinical Associate Professor at the UCLA Cancer Institute and lead author of the study, explained: “Biological understanding of this devastating condition has eluded researchers for a long time, but the massive investment, careful sampling, and data collection in TRACERx has enabled us to start discovering associated with cachexia”.
“We’re especially excited to try to find changes in the cancer or blood that can help identify patients at risk for future cachexia so we can intervene before that happens.”
The £14 million TRACERx study, funded by Cancer Research UK, used methods including artificial intelligence to process hundreds of scans of patients who relapsed after surgery and lost muscle and abdominal fat.
Scientists have been able to identify those patients who suffer from cachexia.
It is often difficult to diagnose this condition because there is no single screening tool that is effective in detecting cachexia.
As part of the next steps, scientists will explore how cancer metabolism and the immune system play a role in cachexia.
Professor Ketan Patel, Chief Scientist at Cancer Research UK, said: “This study is a prime example of what can be achieved when researchers have the space and time to take a closer look at what happens to our bodies when we have cancer.” .
He added: “Cachexia is a devastating condition for patients as it leads to poor quality of life, poor tolerance to treatment and contributes to death. Results like these will create the tools needed to fight it.”
Professor Charles Swanton of the Francis Crick Institute and UK Chief Clinical Officer for Cancer Research in charge of the TRACERx study said: “TRACERx researchers understand that cancer is not static and that the way we treat patients should not be static. approach we were able to use (continued). Patients on their way to cancer and seeing how cancer interacts with the whole body) has allowed us to explore this condition in a way that was not possible before.”
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