The findings provide a better understanding of cancer wasting, also known as cancer cachexia, a condition first described more than 100 years ago that still lacks effective therapy. The findings also might lead to new ways to diagnose and treat the condition. The study, led by researchers with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, is published in the November issue of the journal Cancer Cell.
The research shows that muscle cells lose significant amounts of the protein dystrophin during cancer wasting, and that subtle changes occur in two other proteins associated with dystrophin in the membrane of muscle cells. These proteins form the dystrophin glycoprotein complex (DGC). Dystrophin and DGC are also lost in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
"The loss of dystrophin and damage to the DGC appear to be key players in the development of both cancer wasting and muscular dystrophy," says principal investigator Denis C. Guttridge, assistant professor of molecular virology, immunology and cancer genetics and a researcher with the OSU Human Cancer Genetics Program, "although the damage to muscle cells seen in cancer cachexia is not as severe as that seen in muscular dystrophy."
Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that usually begins in childhood and results in the complete loss of dystrophin and the DGC from muscle.
Cancer wasting occurs most often in esophageal, stomach, colorectal, pancreatic, lung, and head and neck cancers. The condition is induced by growth of the tumor, and it results in the loss of both fat and skeletal muscle mass.