The last pictures of Steve Jobs that circulated around the internet, showed a figure so gaunt that some people were convinced that the pictures had been photoshopped. For those of us who have seen cancer close up and personal, we recognized this condition as cachexia (kuh-KEX-ee-uh), one of the last stages of many tumorigenic forms of cancer. In a recent article in the NCI Cancer Bulletin, researchers established a series of stages to cachexia and published the results in the May issue of the Lancet.
Cachexia is a muscle-wasting stage of cancer, where the body begins breaking down skeletal muscle tissue and adipose tissue and turns it into glucose to keep the brain functioning. There are currently a number of potential treatments undergoing drug trials which may hold some promise in treating this condition. In so doing, they may strengthen the patient and make ongoing cytotoxic therapies more tolerable.