Cachexia is the dramatic weight loss and muscle atrophy seen in patients with chronic illness including type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV, cancer, and in individuals with age-associated ‘failure to thrive’ syndrome. Weight loss in these serious illnesses is unintentional, and is a pathological process that accompanies the primary disease. Cachexia causes dramatic loss of skeletal muscle and eventually leads to immobility. In cancer patients, cachexia is associated with a decreased response to therapy and a poor prognosis. The exact mechanism that causes cachexia is unknown, and although there are many drugs in development to treat cachexia, they are not directed at a common pathway. Treatments aimed at interrupting or reversing cachexia are urgently needed to increase survival and to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses.
Scientists at Torrey Pines Institute are leading the way in uncovering the underlying mechanisms that cause cachexia. Recently, they identified a novel subset of immune cells involved in regulating cachexia, and have shown for the first time that the cell subset is lost in animal models of cancer- and diabetes-related cachexia, and that replacing the cells can slow down disease progression.
Principal Investigators are working on the following challenges in the area of Cachexia:
Dr. Joanna Davies has identified a novel subset of immune T cells that inhibits both the incidence and severity of cachexia in cancer, and in type I diabetes. Her group is studying the mechanism by which the subset prevents cachexia, at both the cellular and molecular level. This work might be used to develop new therapeutic strategies and drugs to treat cachexia in cancer as well as type I diabetic patients. Learn more here…