Protein Metabolism in Cachexia

  • Michael J. Tisdale


Cachexia is characterised by a specific loss of skeletal muscle, while the non-muscle protein compartment is relatively preserved [1]. This loss can be very large. Thus in lung cancer patients who had lost 30% of their pre-illness stable weight there was a 75% fall in skeletal muscle protein mass. This leads to a general muscle weakness (asthenia) and death from immobility and hypostatic pneumonia [1]. For a 70-kg adult, the lean body mass is about 5.8 kg, of which the majority (4.2 kg) is found in muscle and the remainder in cells of the splancnic organs and gut. During total starvation protein is initially broken down at a rate of about 75 g per day, falling to about 20 g per day after 5–6 weeks, which is related to a reduction in the requirement for glucose by the brain. During cachexia of cancer, injury or sepsis there is interference with the normal process of starvation adaption and the rate of protein degradation continues at the high rate.


Skeletal Muscle Lean Body Mass Cancer Cachexia Muscle Protein Breakdown Increase Protein Degradation 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Tisdale
    • 1
  1. 1.Pharmaceutical Sciences Research InstituteAston UniversityBirminghamUK

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