Several other therapies have been tried with limited success. Erythropoietin at varying doses given SQ showed no difference in food intake or weight gain (Adams et al., 2008). Cannabinoids have not shown any effects on anorexia in cancer patients in spite of their activity with advanced HIV patients (Loprinzi & Jatoi, 2008).
Progressive wasting is common in many types of cancer and is one of the most important factors leading to early death in cancer patients. Weight loss is a potent stimulus to food intake in normal humans and animals. The persistence of anorexia in cancer patients, therefore, implies a failure of this adaptive feeding response, although the weight loss in the patients differs from that found in simple starvation. Tremendous progress has been made in the last 5 years with regard to the regulation of feeding and body weight. It has been demonstrated that leptin, a hormone secreted by adipose tissue, is an integral component of the homeostatic loop of body weight regulation. Leptin acts to control food intake and energy expenditure via neuropeptidergic effector molecules within the hypothalamus. Complex interactions among the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems affect the loop and induce behavioral and metabolic responses. A number of cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukins 1 and 6, IFN-γ, leukemia inhibitory factor, and ciliary neurotrophic factor have been proposed as mediators of the cachectic process. Cytokines may play a pivotal role in long-term inhibition of feeding by mimicking the hypothalamic effect of excessive negative feedback signaling from leptin. This could be done by persistent stimulation of anorexigenic neuropeptides such as corticotropin-releasing factor, as well as by inhibition of the neuropeptide Y orexigenic network that consists of opioid peptides and galanin, in addition to the newly identified melanin-concentrating hormone, orexin, and agouti-related peptide. Information is being gathered, although it is still insufficient, on such abnormalities in the hypothalamic neuropeptide circuitry in tumor-bearing animals that coincide with the development of anorexia and cachexia. Characterization of the feeding-associated gene products have revealed new biochemical pathways and molecular targets for pharmacological intervention that will likely lead to new treatments. Although therapeutic intervention using neuropeptide agonists/antagonists is now directed at obesity treatment, it may also have an effect on treating cancer anorexia-cachexia, especially when combined with other agents that have effects on muscle and protein breakdown.