The hormone ghrelin and the adipocytokines leptin and adiponectin participate in body weight regulation. In response to weight loss, ghrelin and adiponectin levels increase and leptin decreases. Cancer cachexia is a complex metabolic state, characterized by loss of muscle mass and adipose tissue together with anorexia. The authors hypothesized that responses of these hormones may be attenuated in cancer cachexia.
Fasting plasma ghrelin, adiponectin, and leptin levels, as well as weight loss, were determined in 40 cancer patients: 18 of them suffered from cancer-induced cachexia, and 22 served as a comparison group. Hormone levels were measured before administration of cancer therapy.
A similar distribution of age, gender, and diagnosis was observed in both study groups, but the cachectic patients had higher rates of metastatic disease and lower albumin levels. No significant correlation was observed between plasma adiponectin levels and weight loss. Mean plasma ghrelin levels were higher among cachectic compared with noncachectic patients. Notably, the association between ghrelin levels and weight loss was only modest, and in a third of the cachectic patients, ghrelin levels were equal to or lower than those in the noncachectic group. Plasma leptin levels showed gender-dependent associations, and significantly lower levels were found among cachectic women but not among cachectic men.
Results suggested a gender-dependent attenuation of expected physiologic responses to weight loss among cancer cachexia patients. Thus, impaired response of adiponectin, ghrelin, and leptin may play a role in the pathogenesis of cancer cachexia syndrome. Cancer 2006. © 2006 American Cancer Society.