A new study has pointed out that only one injection is required to reverse muscle wasting in cancer, if an experimental technique used in mice is found to be successful in humans.
Like humans, mice with cancer experience severe muscle wasting. Mice with colon cancer studied by HQ Han and colleagues at Amgen Research in California stopped eating, and lost 20 per cent of their body weight in three weeks.
Many tumours produce a molecule called activin, which plays a role in muscle breakdown. So Han and his team injected a protein that mops up excess activin, five or 14 days after mice were implanted with a colon tumour.
In both cases, the mice started eating and their body weight returned to normal within two weeks. Mice with gonad tumours responded in a similar way.
The treatment also led to the mice surviving longer. By the time all the untreated mice had died, around 90 per cent of the treated mice were still alive.
"The findings highlight the importance of preserving muscle mass for survival," New Scientist quoted Kate Murphy at the University of Melbourne, as saying.
The study is published in Journal Cell.