J Clin Nutr.  2015 Aug;7(2):36-41. 10.15747/jcn.2015.7.2.36.

Pharmacologic Therapy for Cancer Anorexia-Cachexia Syndrome

  • 1College of Pharmacy, Sookmyung Women's University, Seoul, Korea. hyunah@sookmyung.ac.kr


Cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome (CACS) is a hypercatabolic state, characterized by reduced appetite and weight loss due to ongoing loss of skeletal muscle mass and adipose tissue. CACS occurs mainly in patients with advanced cancer; thus, weight loss in CACS is often associated with poor prognosis and decreased survival. A large number of studies have been conducted on various pharmacologic agents for palliation of cancer-related anorexia. The purpose of this article is to review the pre-existing pharmacologic agents used for CACS and to evaluate the evidence from current studies on each pharmacologic agent. First, appetite stimulants such as corticosteroids, progestins, cyproheptadine, and cannabinoid have been shown to be beneficial by improving appetite and helping with weight changes even if they had no effect on survival rate. Several other agents with anti-inflammatory effects (e.g., eicosapentaenoic acid, thalidomide, and melatonin), prokinetic agents (e.g., metoclopramide), anabolic agents (e.g., androgens and growth hormone), antipsychotics (e.g., mirtazapine and olanzapine), and antiemetics have also been studied in patients in CACS; however further investigations would be required to confirm the beneficial effects.


Neoplasms; Anorexia; Cachexia; Glucocorticoids; Progestins
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