A new study out of Heidelberg University shows that the liver is the organ that controls severe weight loss and muscle wasting (called cachexia), due to cancer. "Doctors used to believe that cancer re-programs metabolism focusing all energy into tumor growth," says Prof. Dr. Stephan Herzig, of the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg University. The latest research shows that cancer doesn't cause deadly cachexia, but rather plays a role in low lipid levels due to the liver releasing insufficient amounts of Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL), which facilitates the transport of fat in the bloodstream.
"Our results prove, for the first time, that dramatic loss of body mass may be controlled by the liver," says Stephan Herzig.
Cachexia often presents with an inflamed fatty liver and affects about 70 percent of cancer patients. Cachexia is characterized by dramatic loss of body weight regardless of caloric food intake and is the most pronounced in patients suffering digestive tract and lung cancers. Victims can lose up to 80 percent of body fat and skeletal muscle with consequent muscle loss producing profound weakness, immobility and eventual death in patients. About 20 percent of all cancer deaths are a direct consequence of cachexia.