The growth of a tumor within the human body causes functional, structural and metabolic changes in the tissues that lead to the progressive worsening of the patient’s condition. In most cases, the neoplasm alters the normal muscle contractile and metabolic capacity, often inducing in patients a state of fatigue, tiredness and “shortness of breath” which not only limits the ability to move, but also reduces tolerance to treatments pharmacological.
More specifically, one of the causes of mortality associated with tumor growth is due to uncontrolled weight loss that cannot be countered with nutritional support. More than half of patients with solid tumors undergo this process, called cachexia, which is the result of the exhaustion of adipose and muscle tissue.
Unfortunately, the molecular mechanisms underlying neoplastic cachexia are not yet fully defined and, to date, there are no therapies to counteract its onset. An important help can then come from research, and in particular from research aimed at identifying targets for drug therapies.
The results published in the prestigious journal “Science Translational Medicine” by the research group led by Prof. Marco Sandri (and coordinated by Dr. Roberta Sartori, first author of the study) at the Department of Biomedical Sciences of the University and the Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM) of Padua, by Prof. Paul Gregorevic (with co-first author Adam Hagg) at the Center for Muscle Research of the University of Melbourne, go on this direction. The title of the article is: “Perturbed BMP signaling and denervation promote muscle wasting in cancer cachexia”.
The research has clarified how the growth of the neoplastic mass causes the production of specific proteins (activin A, IL6, noggin) that alter the structure and function of motor neurons, responsible for the release of activating signals from the spine to the muscle fibers. This effect on motor neurons leads to decreased communication between nerve and muscle, an event that induces weakness, premature fatigue, loss of muscle mass and the onset, in fact, of cachexia.
The study, supported in Italy by the AIRC Foundation for Cancer Research and the Umberto Veronesi Foundation, was conducted in collaboration with a team of researchers from the University of Padua directed by Prof. Stefano Merigliano and with the team of Prof. Paola Costelli. of the University of Turin.
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