Lipases in Cachexia

Science  08 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6039, pp. 163-164
DOI: 10.1126/science.1209418

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Cachexia is a wasting disorder that is frequently observed in cancer—particularly in gastrointestinal malignancy—and is associated with poor response to chemotherapy and decreased survival (1). The most prominent symptom is uncontrolled loss of body weight due to depletion of adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. There is no effective cure for cancer cachexia, and the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Longitudinal studies of humans suggest that loss of fat mass is an early event in the pathogenesis of the condition (2). In humans, this depletion is not due to loss of fat cells (adipocytes), but is attributed to a decrease in lipids stored in these cells, causing them to be smaller (3). On page 233 of this issue, Das et al. (4) present strong evidence that lipases in adipose tissue break down stored fat, contributing to cancer-associated cachexia.