Understanding Cancer Cachexia and Its Implications in Upper Gastrointestinal Cancers

Leo R Brown, Barry J A Laird, Stephen J Wigmore, Richard J E Skipworth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


OPINION STATEMENT: Considerable advances in the investigation and management of oesophagogastric cancer have occurred over the last few decades. While the historically dismal prognosis associated with these diseases has improved, outcomes remain very poor. Cancer cachexia is an often neglected, yet critical, factor for this patient group. There is a persuasive argument that a lack of assessment and treatment of cachexia has limited progress in oesophagogastric cancer care. In the curative setting, the stage of the host (based on factors such as body composition, function, and inflammatory status), alongside tumour stage, has the potential to influence treatment efficacy. Phenotypical features of cachexia may decrease the survival benefit of (peri-operative) chemoradiotherapy, immunotherapy, or surgical resection in patients with potentially curative malignancy. Most patients with oesophagogastric cancer unfortunately present with disease which is not amenable, or is unlikely to respond, to these treatments. In the palliative setting, host factors can similarly impair results from systemic anti-cancer therapies, cause adverse symptoms, and reduce quality of life. To optimise treatment pathways and enhance patient outcomes, we must utilise this information during clinical decision-making. As our understanding of the genesis of cancer cachexia improves and more therapeutic options, ranging from basic (e.g. exercise and nutrition) to targeted (e.g. anti-IL1 α and anti-GDF-15), become available, there can be grounds for optimism. Cachexia can change from a hitherto neglected condition to an integral part of the oesophagogastric cancer treatment pathway.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent treatment options in oncology
Early online date21 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Oct 2022


  • Body composition
  • Cachexia
  • Catabolism
  • Gastric cancer
  • Muscle-wasting
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Oesophagogastric cancer
  • Upper gastrointestinal cancer
  • Weight loss


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