Cancer cachexia

Cancer cachexia is a complex metabolic syndrome characterized by marked loss of body weight, anorexia, asthenia, sarcopenia, and anemia. It is the most common manifestation of advanced malignant cancer, leading to death. Approximately half of all cancer patients experience cachexia and the prevalence is over 80% in terminally ill patients, with cachexia being responsible for the death of more than 20%.

Cachexia is so destructive that it taps into other sources of energy, namely skeletal muscle and adipose tissue when the body senses a lack of adequate nutrition.

It affects an estimated nine million people worldwide, including 80% of people with advanced cancer.

Cachexia is diagnosed when there is a weight loss of at least 5% of current weight during the previous 12 months or less or when the body mass index (BMI) is less than 20 kg/m2.

There are three stages of cachexia:

  • Precachexia: weight loss of less than 5% of body weight.
  • Cachexia: weight loss greater than 5% of body weight.
  • Refractory: when you have cachexia, the treatments are not controlling the cancer and you are not expected to live more than 3 months.

Not all cancer patients will progress to the three stages of cachexia. The risk of cachexia getting worse can depend on many things, such as:

  • Your type of cancer and its stage.
  • The amount of food you eat.
  • The amount of inflammation you have in your body.
  • Inactivity, or not being able to perform daily tasks.
  • Your cancer treatment is not working or has side effects.
  • If you have had surgery and it is not healing as it should.

Serious side effects: mental health

It is more than evident that any type of illness undermines the mental health of the patient, but in the case of cancer cachexia, this state of generalized weakness can have a very negative impact on the patient.

In its most severe form, the physical deterioration that accompanies cachexia can leave a person not only weak and fatigued, but also unable or unwilling to eat, and with alarming changes in appearance. For many, these problems can make the activities of daily living (a trip to the grocery store, meeting a friend for coffee, bathing) Herculean tasks, if not outright impossibilities.

In addition to the physical cost of cachexia, there may be situations of worry, stress, anxiety and mental anguish. And the impact on mental health doesn’t stop there. For the family and loved ones of a person experiencing cachexia, witnessing this physical and mental deterioration can leave them feeling helpless and confused. This situation only results in a clear worsening of the patient’s health. At OLIGOFASTX we believe that improving the quality of life of patients comes hand in hand with a treatment that manages to alleviate the impact of this derivation of the situation of the main disease, thus improving all the basic and fundamental aspects of the life of those affected.

In the OLIGOFASTX project, Arthex Biotech is working on the identification of miRNAs involved in the progression of muscular atrophy associated with lung cancer cachexia and in the development and final validation of antimiRs as potential modifying treatments for the condition.



Advani, S. M., Advani, P. G., VonVille, H. M., & Jafri, S. H. (2018). Pharmacological management of cachexia in adult cancer patients: a systematic review of clinical trials. BMC cancer, 18(1), 1174.

Dhanapal R et al. Cancer cachexia. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. Sep-Dec 2011; 15(3):257-260.

Eric J. Roeland, Kari Bohlke, Vickie E. Baracos, Eduardo Bruera, Egidio del Fabbro, Suzanne Dixon, Marie Fallon, Jørn Herrstedt, Harold Lau, Mary Platek, Hope S. Rugo, Hester H. Schnipper, Thomas J. Smith, Winston Tan, and Charles L. Loprinzi. (2020). Management of Cancer Cachexia: ASCO guidelines. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 38:21, 2438-2453. DOI: 10.1200/JCO.20.00611

NCI. 2022. Treating Cancer Cachexia: Progress Looks Possible.

Ni, J., & Zhang, L. (2020). Cancer Cachexia: Definition, Staging, and Emerging Treatments. Cancer management and research, 12,5597-5605.

Tazi EM and Errhani H. Treatment of cachexia in oncology. Indian Journal of Palliative Care. Sep-Dec 2010; 16(3): 129-137.