Cancer cachexia from a whole-body perspective

David P.J. van Dijk

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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Thirty percent of cancer patients (up to 80% in some forms of cancer) suffer from cachexia syndrome, which is characterised by weight loss, muscle loss, loss of fatty tissue, inflammation and decreased appetite. Eventually 20-60% of patients actually die from the effects of cachexia and not the tumour.
With the assistance of CT scans, this research mapped the level of muscle and fatty tissue loss in cancer patients. The body composition of a patient appears to be just as important for their prognosis and survival as the characteristics of the tumour. Currently, in most medical care only the tumour characteristics are used when determining prognosis and treatment. With the results of this research, cancer patients can be more precisely examined in order to possibly receive more appropriate treatment.
Additionally, this research showed that cancer patients with cachexia are able to produce protein from food. For a long time this was thought to be impossible. This insight offers possibilities to treat cachexia with food and nutritional supplements. Lastly, the protein production of pancreatic tumours and different organs was measured. It appears that the protein production of the tumour is much lower than the protein production of healthy organs. Therefore, the common assumption that the tumour is responsible for the weight and muscle loss in cancer patients because it “eats” the patient’s nutrients appears to be false.

Financed by the Dutch Research Council (NOW)
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Olde Damink, Steven, Supervisor
  • Dejong, C.H.C., Supervisor
  • Rensen, Sander, Co-Supervisor
Award date8 Oct 2021
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Print ISBNs9789463809573
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • cancer
  • weight loss
  • body composition
  • muscle fatty tissue
  • phenotyping
  • tumour protein production

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