Cachexia a condition caused by severe chronic illness in which a person loses weight suffer from muscular dystrophy and weakness.
Many patients suffering from cancer face this condition called cachexia which is also known as wasting syndrome. This syndrome leads to around 20% of cancer deaths.
A team of researchers Dr. Melinda Sheffield-Moore, professor and head of the Department of Health and Kinesiology, along with researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, showed that the male hormone testosterone can help to fight against cachexia in cancer patients which in turn can help them to improve their quality of life.
As there was no therapy yet discovered for curing this type of condition, this finding is very important.
“We hoped to demonstrate these patients would go from not feeling well enough to even get out of bed to at least being able to have some basic quality of life that allows them to take care of themselves and receive therapy,” Dr. Sheffield-Moore said.
Initially, researchers treated patients with nutrition-focused treatment but couldn’t help to stop severe loss of the body. After that, they used testosterone treatment as an option to combat the unbearable consequence of cancer cachexia.
“We already know that testosterone builds skeletal muscle in healthy individuals, so we tried using it in a population at a high risk of muscle loss, so these patients could maintain their strength and performance status to be able to receive standard cancer therapies.” Dr. Sheffield-Moore said.
During their research, the patients suffering from squamous cell carcinoma type of cancer were given chemotherapy in addition to testosterone or placebo treatment for seven weeks. All the patients were monitored to check their muscle and fat mass and physical activity.
They found that testosterone treatment helped patient to maintain their total body mass and patients were able to take of their basic activities like cleaning, bathing, cooking.
Additionally, Dr. Sheffield-Moore’s lab is currently analyzing skeletal muscle proteomic data from this study. “What the proteome [profile of proteins found in the muscle] tells us is which particular proteins in the skeletal muscles were either positively or negatively affected by testosterone or by cancer, respectively,” Dr. Sheffield-Moore said. “It allows us to begin to dig into the potential mechanisms behind cancer cachexia.”
Dr. Sheffield-Moore hopes this research will help cancer patients increase the quality of life and maintain eligibility to receive standard of care therapy if cachexia ensues.