Abstract

Significance: Cancer is frequently associated with the early appearance of cachexia, a multifactorial wasting syndrome. If not present at diagnosis, cachexia develops either as a result of tumor progression or as a side effect of anticancer treatments, especially of standard chemotherapy, eventually representing the direct cause of death in up to one-third of all cancer patients. Cachexia, within its multiorgan affection, is characterized by severe loss of muscle mass and function, representing the most relevant subject of preclinical and clinical investigation. Recent Advances: The pathogenesis of muscle wasting in cancer- and chemotherapy-induced cachexia is complex, and encompasses heightened protein catabolism and reduced anabolism, disrupted mitochondria and energy metabolism, and even neuromuscular junction dismantling. The mechanisms underlying these alterations are still controversial, especially concerning the molecular drivers that could be targeted for anticachexia therapies. Inflammation and mitochondrial oxidative stress are among the principal candidates; the latter being extensively discussed in the present review. Critical Issues: Several approaches have been tested to modulate the redox homeostasis in tumor hosts, and to counteract cancer- and chemotherapy-induced muscle wasting, from exercise training to distinct classes of direct or indirect antioxidants. We herein report the most relevant results obtained from both preclinical and clinical trials. Future Directions: Including the assessment and the treatment of altered redox balance in the clinical management of cancer patients is still a big challenge. The available evidence suggests that fortifying the antioxidant defenses by either pharmacological or nonpharmacological strategies will likely improve cachexia and eventually the outcome of a broad cancer patient population. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 38, 352-370.

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