Pancreatic Cancer as a Model: Inflammatory Mediators, Acute-phase Response, and Cancer Cachexia
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Patients with pancreatic cancer frequently develop the syndrome of cancer cachexia. Pro-inflammatory cytokines have been strongly implicated in the pathogenesis of this syndrome. In patients with pancreatic cancer an acute-phase response (an index of pro-inflammatory cytokine activity) is associated with accelerated weight loss, hypermetabolism, anorexia, and a shortened duration of survival. However, little is known about the primary significance of the acute-phase response in terms of altered hepatic export protein synthesis rates and its potential impact on the body's nitrogen economy. In a recent series of studies on weight-losing pancreatic cancer patients with hypoalbuminemia we have demonstrated albumin synthesis to be unaltered whereas fibrinogen synthesis is increased two- to threefold compared with healthy controls. Because of the mismatch in amino acid composition between the body's main labile amino acid reserve (skeletal muscle) and that of acute-phase proteins, these results lend support to the concept that in pancreatic cancer the reprioritization of body protein metabolism during an acute-phase response may well be a significant factor in the loss of lean tissue in these patients.
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