It's estimated that approximately 30% of cancer deaths can be partially or wholly attributed to cancer-related anorexia/cachexia (CAC). CAC is the conglomeration of symptoms that cause cancer patients to lose muscle mass, experience fatigue, and suffer a reduction in their body's ability to combat the disease. Some progestogens, such as oral megestrol and medroxyprogesterone, have been effective in combatting CAC in previous research studies, but not in all cases.

New research from the Biochemistry and Genetics Department at La Trobe University Molecular Institute has found the root cause of cancer-related cachexia to be a molecule known as Fn14, a receptor on the cell-membrane of malignant tumors. Dr. Amelia Johnson, a member of the La Trobe team credited with this discovery, says that blocking the Fn14 receptor with antibodies should allow cancer patients to maintain a better quality of life during treatment. If CAC could be eliminated from the majority of cancer cases, patients would have much better prospects for surviving the disease.

While trials in human patients could still be a few years off, this research may prove a major breakthrough for cancer care. Click here to read more about this discovery on La Trobe University's news feed.