Mechanisms of tumour-induced cachexia
The effect of cancer cachexia on host metabolism has been studied in mice transplanted with either the MAC 16 adenocarcinoma which induces profound loss of host body weight and depletion of lipid stores or, the MAC13 adenocarcinoma which is of the same histological type, but which grows without an effect on host body weight. Oxidation of D-[U-14C]glucose was elevated in both tumour-bearing states irrespective of cachexia, when compared with non tumour-bearing controls. Both the MAC16 and MAC13 tumours in vivo utilised glucose at the expense of the brain, where its use was partially replaced by 3-hydroxybutyratc, a ketone body. Oxidation of both [U-l4C]palmitic acid and [l-14C]triolein was significantly increased in MAC16 tumour-bearing animals and decreased in MAC 13 tumour-bearing animals when compared with non tumour-bearing controls, suggesting that in cachectic tumour-bearing animals, mobilisation of body lipids is accompanied by an increased utilisation by the host. Weight loss in MAC16 tumour-bearing animals is associated with the production of a lipolytic factor. Injection of this partially purified lipolytic factor induced weight loss in recipient animals which could be maintained over time in tumour-bearing animals. This suggests that the tumour acts as a sink for the free fatty acids liberated as a result of the mobilisatation of adipose stores. Lipids are important as an energy source in cachectic animals because of their high calorific value and because glucose is being diverted away from host tissues to support tumour growth. Their importance is further demonstrated by the evidence of a MAC 16 tumour-associated lipolytic factor. This lipolytic factor is the key to understanding the alterations in host metabolism that occur in tumour-induced cachexia, and may provide future alternatives for the reversal of cachexia and the treatment of cancer itself.