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    Waste management—cytokines, growth factors and cachexia

    Saini, Amarjit, Al-Shanti, Nasser and Stewart, Claire E. (2006) Waste management—cytokines, growth factors and cachexia. Cytokine & Growth Factor Reviews, 17 (6). pp. 475-486. ISSN 1879-0305

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    Muscle damage with a lack of regeneration, manifests itself in several life-threatening diseases, including cancer cachexia, congestive heart failure, AIDS and sepsis. Often misdiagnosed as a condition simply of weight loss, cachexia is actually a highly complex metabolic disorder involving features of anorexia, anaemia, lipolysis and insulin resistance. A significant loss of lean body mass arises from such conditions, resulting in wasting of skeletal muscle. Unlike starvation, the weight loss seen in chronic illnesses arises equally from loss of muscle and of fat. The cachectic state is particularly problematic in cancer, typifying poor prognosis and often lowering responses to chemotherapy and radiation treatment. More than half of cancer patients suffer from cachexia, and strikingly, nearly one-third of cancer deaths are related to cachexia rather than the tumour burden. In considering this disorder, we are faced with a conundrum; how is it possible for uncontrolled growth to prevail in the tumour, in the face of unrestrained tissue loss in our muscles? Consistently, the catabolic state has been associated with a shift in the homeostatic balance between muscle synthesis and degradation mediated by the actions of growth factors and cytokines. Indeed, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) levels are raised in several animal models of cachectic muscle wasting, whereas the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system acts potently to regulate muscle development, hypertrophy and maintenance. This concept of skeletal muscle homeostasis, often viewed as the net balance between two separate processes of protein synthesis and degradation has however changed. More recently, the view is that these two biochemical processes are not occurring independently of each other but in fact are finely co-ordinated by a web of intricate signalling networks. This review, therefore, aims to discuss data currently available regarding the mechanisms of degeneration and regeneration with specific emphasis on the potential and controversial cross-talk which may exist between anabolic growth factors (e.g. IGF-I) and catabolic cytokines (e.g. TNF-α). Also importantly, the potential impact at a cellular level of exercise, diet and age will be addressed. Finally, the ability to ‘hi-jack’ signalling pathways traditionally believed to be for growth and survival or death will be reviewed. It is anticipated that such a review will highlight significant gaps in our knowledge of the cachectic state as well as provide caution with regards to therapeutics suggesting total block on inflammatory processes such as that associated with TNF-α action.

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