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Myosteatosis and muscle wasting in pancreatic cancer: murderer, mediator or mirror?

Recipient: Professor Kenneth Fearon and Professor Tom Preston

Host Institution: University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow

Title: Myosteatosis and muscle wasting in pancreatic cancer: murderer, mediator or mirror?

Type of award: 2013 Research Innovation Fund

Funding: £74,133

Virtually all patients with pancreatic cancer develop weight loss and this can progress to significant muscle wasting (cachexia). Such cachexia is associated with reduced treatment tolerance, quality of life and survival. At the same time, more than a third of pancreatic cancer patients are either overweight/obese or have clinical/sub-clinical diabetes. Obesity can mask the development of muscle wasting and, in theory may even act along with diabetes to accelerate loss of skeletal muscle. At present there is no approved treatment for the management of cancer cachexia. Fatty muscle (myosteatosis) is a feature of obesity, diabetes and cancer cachexia and has recently been associated with markedly shortened survival in cancer patients. However, it is not known whether in patients with pancreatic cancer, the accumulation of fat in muscle plays a primary role in muscle wasting or is simply a bystander. The present project seeks to explore this relationship by determining whether there is an association between fatty muscle and one of the main mechanisms of wasting in muscle (reduced skeletal muscle protein synthesis). If there is a clear association, this would provide evidence to develop myosteatosis and its associated mechanisms as a stratification marker/novel therapeutic target for cancer cachexia.