Cachexia has been recognised for a long time as an adverse effect of cancer and it has been estimated that cachexia affects 50–80% of cancer patients and accounts for up to 20% of cancer deaths1,2.
The definition of cancer cachexia is “weight loss greater than 5%, or weight loss greater than 2% in individuals already showing depletion according to current bodyweight and height (body-mass index [BMI] <20 kg/m2) or skeletal muscle mass (sarcopenia).”3
Solid tumour types such as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and colorectal cancer (CRC) have relatively high incidences of cachexia, (approximately 50%3,4). The presence of cachexia in any cancer type is associated with reduced physical function, poor mortality outcomes and a poorer prognosis when compared to patients with no weight loss6, 7. Cachexia can also reduce the impact of anti-cancer treatment and this in turn aggravates the effect of underlying and associated conditions resulting in lower rates of survival5,7,8. A meta-analysis published in 2023 demonstrated that in NSCLC patients, cachexia was associated with an 82% higher relative risk of mortality versus patients without cachexia5.
Weight loss in patients with cancer is rarely recognised, assessed or managed actively. Other than supportive care, no approved treatments are available for this patient population. Thus, cancer cachexia represents an important unmet need.
Cancer cachexia remains a significant hurdle in the treatment of cancer and results in a high medical, social and economic burden for health care providers as well as a significant emotional strain on patients and loved ones.