TUESDAY, Sept. 14, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- The heart can suffer serious damage because of a cancer-related muscle wasting disease called cachexia, a new study has found.
It had been believed that cachexia didn't damage the heart, but Ohio State University researchers found that the disease reduced heart function and changed heart muscle structure in mice with colon cancer.
Cachexia is most common in patients with colon cancer and other gastrointestinal tumors, as well as some lung cancers, the study authors noted.
"The fatigue and weakness of cachexia have been attributed to skeletal muscle wasting. But our results support the idea that insufficient heart performance might also be responsible for fatigue symptoms, leading to less exercise and more severe muscle wasting. It's a vicious cycle that contributes to the complications of cancer cachexia," lead author Martha Belury, a professor of human nutrition at Ohio State, said in a university news release.
The study appeared in a recent issue of the International Journal of Oncology.
The findings could have immediate implications in the treatment of patients with cachexia, which may be responsible for between one-fifth and one-third of all cancer deaths.
"I think if we know certain types of cancer are associated with this wasting disease, it might be important to think about heart function earlier rather than once people are starting to lose weight," Belury said. "Clinicians could try to protect the heart while also giving patients chemotherapy for cancer and perhaps added nutrition to maintain weight."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about nutrition in cancer care.