Public Release:  Promising hormone may help reduce malnutrition in gastric cancer patients

American Gastroenterological Association

In gastric cancer patients who have had part or all of their stomach removed, the hormone ghrelin may lessen post-operative weight loss and improve appetite, according to a new study in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute.

"It is our obligation to invent novel procedures to minimize the side effects of gastrectomy. Our study provides convincing data for the beneficial effects of ghrelin -- the only gastrointestinal hormone known to stimulate appetite -- on body weight and dietary activity after gastrectomy," said Shuji Takiguchi, MD, of Osaka University's Graduate School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Although there are some issues to be resolved before clinical use, surgeons dealing with gastric cancers and other gastroesophageal diseases should be encouraged by the availability of ghrelin."

In this randomized phase II study, doctors assigned 20 gastrectomy patients to receive either ghrelin (10 patients) or placebo (10 patients) via IV twice a day for 10 days after starting oral food intake following surgery. Changes in body weight, appetite, food intake, body composition, metabolic rate and various blood tests were evaluated.

When comparing both groups, food intake (average 13.8 versus 10.4 kcal/kg/day) and appetite (5.7 versus 3.9 cm) were significantly higher in the ghrelin group than in the placebo group, respectively. Body weight loss was significantly lower in the ghrelin group than in the placebo group (-1.4 percent versus -3.7 percent). Fat mass, lean body mass and metabolic rate decreased significantly in the placebo group. Although the reductions in lean body mass and metabolic rate were not significant in the ghrelin group, the fat mass reduction was significant.

Body weight loss is a common and serious outcome in patients with gastric cancer who have undergone total gastrectomy, or excision of the stomach. It may also lead to a decline in post-operative quality of life and is the most reliable indicator of malnutrition, which impairs immune function, infection susceptibility and survival. Although various factors have been considered, reduced food intake is the most conceivable explanation for body weight loss after gastrectomy.

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About the AGA Institute

The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to include 17,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization. www.gastro.org.

About Gastroenterology

Gastroenterology, the official journal of the AGA Institute, is the most prominent scientific journal in the specialty and is in the top 1 percent of indexed medical journals internationally. The journal publishes clinical and basic science studies of all aspects of the digestive system, including the liver and pancreas, as well as nutrition. The journal is abstracted and indexed in Biological Abstracts, CABS, Chemical Abstracts, Current Contents, Excerpta Medica, Index Medicus, Nutrition Abstracts and Science Citation Index. For more information, visit www.gastrojournal.org.

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