Cancer cachexia is a tumor-induced debilitating wasting condition that causes loss of white adipose tissue and muscle degradation, exacerbated, paradoxically, by the loss of appetite by unclear mechanisms. Preventing cancer cachexia is profoundly important as it can prevent deterioration of patient health allowing sustained treatment and improved outcome. Cancer cachexia likely results from a systemic metabolic imbalance where tumors outcompete host tissues for essential nutrients that drive a catabolic process within normal tissues. Defining the cause of the systemic metabolic imbalance that favors the tumor at the expense of the patient and reversing it will improve cancer treatment and patient health.

A major goal of the Ludwig Princeton Branch is to determine how tumors cause the metabolic imbalance that drives cancer cachexia. With an understanding of the metabolic deregulation responsible for cancer cachexia, we can then reverse the condition by targeting the signaling mechanisms of the tumor and by supplying nutrients to correct the metabolic imbalance. We specifically aim to determine if dietary, pharmacologic, or genetic intervention can prevent or reverse cancer cachexia to improve the health, well-being and survival of cancer patients.

A recent Cancer Grand Challenges award assembles a multinational consortium supported by the National Cancer Institute and Cancer Research UK to build upon and expand cachexia work at the Ludwig Princeton Branch.