[A cancer patient rests in a hospital bed. Photo by Christine Gleason via Creative Commons 2.0 & Flickr]
Tumors are master manipulators. They have to be in order to escape human immune systems. Scientists have found evidence that tumors hide by wearing biochemical disguises and some tumors can even recruit turncoat immune cells to their cause.
And now scientists have found evidence that some tumors alter the whole body’s metabolism by “reprogramming” the liver, according to a study in the journal Cell Metabolism. [Full disclosure: I have an accepted an internship position at Cell Press’s media relations office, but I don’t start until January. I conducted the interviews this post is based on prior to accepting the internship.] The consequences of that reprogramming are often deadly.
It’s no secret that many cancer patients waste away. They lose weight, including lean muscle mass. Many lose their appetites, too. Food doesn’t seem to nourish them anymore. They grow weaker. Breathing gets harder. And, too often, they die.
“The wasting can get so severe in so many patients that it’s estimated to account for 30% of all deaths due to cancer,” explains study co-author Thomas Flint of University of Cambridge. “Lots of people are saying [the cause of death] is the metastasis; it’s this and that, but about 30% of the deaths don’t seem to be directly explained by the tumor.” Continue reading “Cachexia: How Cancer Sabotages Patients’ Metabolism” »