Cachexia is metabolic disorder characterized by anorexia, an increased metabolic rate, and loss of lean body mass. It is a relatively common disorder, and is a pathological feature of diseases such as cancer, HIV infection, and renal failure. Recent studies have demonstrated that cachexia brought about by a variety of illnesses can be attenuated or reversed by blocking activation of the melanocortin 4 subtype receptor (MC4-R) within the central nervous system. Although the potential use of central MC4-R antagonists for the treatment of cachexia, was supported by these studies, utility was limited by the need to deliver these agents intracerebroventricularly. In the current study, we present a series of experiments demonstrating that peripheral administration of a small molecule MC4-R antagonist can effectively stimulate daytime (satiated) food intake as well as decrease basal metabolic rate in normal animals. Furthermore, this compound attenuated cachexia and preserved lean body mass in a murine cancer model. These data clearly demonstrate the potential of small molecule MC4-R antagonists in the treatment of cachexia and underscore the importance of melanocortin signaling in the development of this metabolic disorder.
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