Potential strategies for ameliorating early cancer anorexia

M. Varma, G. F. Torelli, M. M. Meguid, J. K. Chai, V. Blaha, A. Laviano, H. J. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background. Normally the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) and the ventromedial nucleus (VMN) interact to regulate food intake (FI), the product of meal number (MN) and meal size (MZ), by changes in neurotransmitters, mainly dopamine and serotonin. Change in LHA dopamine influences meal size; while in VMN, decreasing dopamine and increasing serotonin levels influence meal number. Whether this situation exists in early cancer anorexia was tested in a series of studies to examine the role of the hypothalamus in the pathogenesis of early cancer anorexia. Materials and Methods. In experiment 1, male Fischer tumor-bearing (TB) rats and weight-matched controls had FI, MN, and MZ measured continuously via a computerized rat eater meter. At onset of anorexia, feeding patterns were measured. In experiment 2, the VMN was temporarily blocked with 0.32 μg of colchicine in TB rats, while TB controls had an equal volume of intra-VMN saline, and changes in feeding patterns were measured. In experiment 3, changes in VMN dopamine and serotonin were measured via microdialysis at anorexia and after tumor resection. Results. In experiment 1, with the onset of anorexia, food intake decreased significantly in TB rats, initially by a decrease in MN and then by a decrease in both MN and MZ. No change occurred in controls, suggesting that VMN versus LHA played a more significant role in mediation of cancer anorexia. In experiment 2, following VMN block, FI increased significantly in anorectic TB rats, achieved by an almost exclusive increase in MN with minimal change in MZ, thus supporting the role of the VMN in anorexia. In experiment 3, at the onset of anorexia, FI decreased significantly in TB rats versus controls. TB rats had a significant increase in VMN serotonin and a significant decrease in VMN dopamine. After tumor resection, food intake improved and high levels of serotonin normalized with no change in dopamine. Conclusion. Serotoninergic and dopaminergic systems are involved in the etiology of cancer anorexia. The changes in food intake are mediated via the VMN by a decrease in meal number.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-76
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999


  • Automated computerized rat eater meter
  • Cancer anorexia
  • Dopamine
  • Food intake
  • Male rats
  • Meal number
  • Meal size
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Serotonin
  • Tumor-bearing rats
  • VMN

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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