New Tool Can Diagnose Cachexia in Cancer Patients

A newly created tool can diagnose cachexia in patients with cancer and other diseases.

Investigators recently created a novel tool that can diagnose cachexia, a serious condition associated with late stage cancer and other diseases.

The disease is characterized by extreme, involuntary weight loss stemming from muscle wasting and metabolic changes that cannot be fixed through food intake.

In a study published by Clinical Nutrition, investigators created a tool that allows physicians to easily diagnose cachexia before it becomes permanent. Physicians and investigators have tried to understand this disease and treatment options for many years, without significant progress.

“We are losing many cancer patients, not because of their cancer, but because their bodies have undergone important metabolic changes,” said study lead author Antonio Vigano, MD. “In other words, they have simply stopped functioning correctly. In severe stages of cachexia, weight loss becomes very important and nutrients can no longer be absorbed or used properly by cancer patients.”

Cachexia is associated with cancer treatment failure, increased hospitalization, and it can place a large burden on the caregivers of patients. Unfortunately, this disease is typically undertreated in patients with cancer. Physicians also tend to overlook the condition and only treat the primary illness.

By creating a tool that can diagnose the condition earlier, more patients will be able receive treatment and survive the disease.

“Cachexia gets worse with time and the longer we wait to address it, the harder it is to treat. Effectively diagnosing cachexia when still in its early stages can make an enormous difference for a cancer patient’s prognosis and quality of life,” Dr Vigano said. “In order to save more lives, we need practical and accessible tools that can be effectively used by clinicians in their routine practice to identify patients with cachexia.”

The novel tool is a combination of the 5 routine measures and laboratory tests used to diagnose cachexia in patients. The investigators said that this tool could be available for use very soon, and are hopeful that it could be used for many other diseases.

This new tool could also potentially diagnose cachexia in patients with AIDS, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic heart failure, tuberculosis, and other chronic diseases, according to the study.

Investigators are also conducting studies that focus on creating new treatments for cachexia. However, new treatments will only be useful if there is an effective way to diagnose the disease and understand the severity of each case.

“Research is still needed to understand all the causes of cachexia,” Dr Vigano concluded. “Unless we can talk the same language in terms of what type of patients we are treating and the severity of their condition, it is often very difficult to make substantial progress.”