Brown fat found to be at the root of cancer-related wasting syndrome

July 17, 2014, Cell Press

Many patients with advanced stages of cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases die from a condition called cachexia, which is characterized as a "wasting" syndrome that causes extreme thinness with muscle weakness. Cachexia is the direct cause of roughly 20% of deaths in cancer patients. While boosting food intake doesn't help, and no effective therapies are available, new research in the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism points to a promising strategy that may stimulate weight gain and muscle strength.

The research relates to a process that has been gaining considerable attention as a way to combat obesity: the browning of white fat. While white fat normally stores calories, brown fat burns them and generates heat in the process. Therefore, efforts to turn white fat into brown fat may help people lose weight.

Erwin Wagner, of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid, and his colleagues found that in mice and with cancer-associated , white fat undergoes significant changes and turns into calorie-burning brown fat. The transformation leads to increased energy consumption and organ wasting.

The team also discovered that inflammation plays an important role in turning white fat into brown fat during cancer-associated cachexia, which suggests a potential therapeutic target. Indeed, anti-inflammatory therapies, including the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Sulindac, ameliorated the severity of cachexia in mice.

Many patients with advanced stages of cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases die from a condition called cachexia, which is characterized as a "wasting" syndrome that causes extreme thinness with muscle weakness. Cachexia is the direct cause of roughly 20 percent of deaths in cancer patients. While boosting food intake doesn't help, and no effective therapies are available, new research in the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism points to a promising strategy that may stimulate weight gain and muscle strength. Credit: CNIO
"Our data suggest that inhibition of the browning of white fat represents a promising approach to ameliorate the severity of cachexia in cancer patients," says Dr. Wagner. "In addition, identifying biomarkers of browning at early stages of cancer development could help to predict which patients are going to develop cachexia and are good candidates to benefit from a preventive treatment."

Explore further: Antibody halts cancer-related wasting condition: Study pinpoints a molecular cause of cachexia

More information: Cell Metabolism, Petruzzelli et al.: "A Switch from White to Brown Fat Increases Energy Expenditure in Cancer-Associated Cachexia." www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/a … 1550-4131(14)00276-9

Related Stories

Antibody halts cancer-related wasting condition: Study pinpoints a molecular cause of cachexia

July 13, 2014
New research raises the prospect of more effective treatments for cachexia, a profound wasting of fat and muscle occurring in about half of all cancer patients, raising their risk of death, according to scientists from Dana-Farber ...

Liver controls wasting in cancer: Overactive gene switch in the liver causes blood fat levels to drop

January 14, 2013
Many cancer patients suffer from a dramatic loss of fat and muscle mass. This extreme wasting, or cachexia, is often the actual cause of death in cancer patients. Heidelberg scientists have now discovered in mice that tumors ...

Researchers identify specific causes of brown fat cell 'whitening'

April 9, 2014
Boston University researchers have learned new information about the consequences of overeating high-calorie foods. Not only does this lead to an increase in white fat cell production, the type prominent in obesity, but it ...

Cancer wasting due in part to tumor factors that block muscle repair, study shows

October 23, 2013
A new study reveals that tumors release factors into the bloodstream that inhibit the repair of damaged muscle fibers, and that this contributes to muscle loss during cancer wasting. The condition, also called cancer cachexia, ...

Immune system molecules may promote weight loss, study finds

June 5, 2014
The calorie-burning triggered by cold temperatures can be achieved biochemically – without the chill – raising hopes for a weight-loss strategy focused on the immune system rather than the brain, according to a new study ...

Scientists identify process that affects fat distribution and metabolic syndrome

July 2, 2014
Building upon their earlier research on the biology of fat metabolism, Joslin scientists discovered that microRNAs –small RNA molecules that play important roles in regulation in many types of tissue – play a major role ...

Recommended for you

Scientists grow functioning human neural networks in 3-D from stem cells

October 18, 2018
A team of Tufts University-led researchers has developed three-dimensional (3-D) human tissue culture models for the central nervous system that mimic structural and functional features of the brain and demonstrate neural ...

Functional engineered oesophagus could pave way for clinical trials 

October 18, 2018
The world's first functional oesophagus engineered from stem cells has been grown and successfully transplanted into mice, as part of a pioneering new study led by UCL.

New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health

October 16, 2018
Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have broken new ground in understanding how the lymphatic system works, potentially opening the door for future therapies.

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Age-related increase in estrogen may cause common men's hernia

October 16, 2018
An age-related increase in estrogen may be the culprit behind inguinal hernias, a condition common among elderly men that often requires corrective surgery, according to a Northwestern Medicine study was published Oct. 15 ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.