Can the Protein Responsible for Cancer-Induced Anorexia Treat Obesity?

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In 2017, three different pharmaceutical companies have found that a protein responsible for cancer-induced anorexia may benefit people suffering from obesity.

Currently, there are many people suffering from obesity worldwide. However, attempts to lose weight are unsuccessful for some people despite engaging in diets and strenuous physical activities.

A recent news article published in Science Magazine reports that three pharmaceutical companies in the United States have published studies indicating that a certain protein found in cancer patients has been found to reduce weight in mice, rats, and monkeys without any side effects. Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF 15), the protein responsible for the cancer-induced anorexia (the lack of appetite that often accompanies late-stage cancer), is currently being studied for its potential as an anti-obesity drug.

This protein was first discovered by Dr. Samuel Breit, an immunologist and physician from Sydney, Australia. He found that GDF15 levels rose 10 to 100 times higher during cancer-induced anorexia in mice with prostate tumours and that this protein primarily exerts in effects on the brain. Since then, multiple studies have been done about the properties of GDF15.  All of the studies had consistent results.  This protein seems to work primarily by suppressing appetite, not by increased fat or calorie burning.  No side effects have been observed in animal subjects.

Overall, the GDF15 protein may play a role in appetite regulation and has a promising potential to be developed into an anti-obesity drug. However, more studies should still be done to determine the potency, efficacy, and possible side effects of this protein in humans.

Written by Karla Sevilla

Reference: Cross, Ryan. “Cancer-induced anorexia inspires potentially powerful antiobesity drug”. Science. 30 Aug 2017. doi: 10.1126/science.aap8286

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