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Three cachexia phenotypes and the impact of fat‐only loss on survival in FOLFIRINOX therapy for pancreatic cancer



By the traditional definition of unintended weight loss, cachexia develops in ~80% of patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Here, we measure the longitudinal body composition changes in patients with advanced PDAC undergoing 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, irinotecan, and oxaliplatin therapy.


We performed a retrospective review of 53 patients with advanced PDAC on 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, irinotecan, and oxaliplatin as first line therapy at Indiana University Hospital from July 2010 to August 2015. Demographic, clinical, and survival data were collected. Body composition measurement by computed tomography (CT), trend, univariate, and multivariate analysis were performed.


Among all patients, three cachexia phenotypes were identified. The majority of patients, 64%, had Muscle and Fat Wasting (MFW), while 17% had Fat-Only Wasting (FW) and 19% had No Wasting (NW). NW had significantly improved overall median survival (OMS) of 22.6 months vs. 13.0 months for FW and 12.2 months for MFW (P = 0.02). FW (HR = 5.2; 95% confidence interval = 1.5-17.3) and MFW (HR = 1.8; 95% confidence interval = 1.1-2.9) were associated with an increased risk of mortality compared with NW. OMS and risk of mortality did not differ between FW and MFW. Progression of disease, sarcopenic obesity at diagnosis, and primary tail tumours were also associated with decreased OMS. On multivariate analysis, cachexia phenotype and chemotherapy response were independently associated with survival. Notably, CT-based body composition analysis detected tissue loss of >5% in 81% of patients, while the traditional definition of >5% body weight loss identified 56.6%.


Distinct cachexia phenotypes were observed in this homogeneous population of patients with equivalent stage, diagnosis, and first-line treatment. This suggests cellular, molecular, or genetic heterogeneity of host or tumour. Survival among patients with FW was as poor as for MFW, indicating adipose tissue plays a crucial role in cachexia and PDAC mortality. Adipose tissue should be studied for its mechanistic contributions to cachexia.

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