Protein anabolic resistance in cancer: Does it really exist?

Mariëlle P K J Engelen, Barbara S van der Meij, Nicolaas E P Deutz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Preventing unintentional weight and muscle loss is of crucial importance to maintain the condition and well-being of patients with cancer, improve treatment response and tolerance, and prolong survival. Anabolic resistance might explain why some cancer patients do not respond to nutritional intervention, but does recent evidence actually support this? We will discuss recent literature that casts doubt on attenuated anabolic potential in cancer.

RECENT FINDINGS: Although anabolic resistance was observed in the past, more recent studies have shown that advanced cancer patients have an anabolic potential after intake of high-quality proteins. Furthermore, a consistent linear relationship is observed in cancer between (essential) amino acid availability from the diet and net protein gain. The studied cancer patients, however, were often characterized by a normal or obese body weight, following the trend in the general population, and mild systemic inflammation. Factors like recent chemotherapy, surgery, or cachexia do not seem to attenuate the anabolic potential to feeding.

SUMMARY: Cancer patients have a normal anabolic potential which relates to the amount of essential amino acids in the meal. It remains to be determined if this is also the case in weak cancer patients with a short life expectancy and high systemic inflammation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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