A synthetic analogue of hunger hormone – ghrelin – can help overcome the problem of lack of appetite in cancer patients.
Ghrelin is produced in the intestine and is responsible for the feeling of hunger or appetite. Japanese researchers from Osaka University have conducted studies of this hormone, studying the mechanism of its work and hoping that the findings could help the patients suffering from obesity. Their work has not been successful so far, but there appeared “side” results, which led to the suggestion that synthetic ghrelin could help improve the appetite of the patients undergoing chemotherapy. The widely used during chemotherapy cisplatin drug causes nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite in cancer patients, and reduces natural levels of ghrelin.
The theory was confirmed by practice. For the new study, the Japanese invited 41 patients with cancer, who had been treated with cisplatin. Half of them were given a medicine dropper with a solution of a synthetic analog of ghrelin twice a day before meals. The other half of the patients received saline. The appetite and assimilation of calories in the first group improved by 50%, whereas the second group of patients still suffered from significant loss of appetite.
There is already a drug that, by reducing the activity of the hormone serotonin, relieves the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, but this happens only during the first 24 hours after the treatment with cisplatin. The Japanese scientists are hoping that a synthetic analog of ghrelin would help solve the problem of loss of appetite in the long run.