New hope for cancer weight loss patients

Professor Mike Tisdale
Professor Mike Tisdale

11th September, 2009

A new research project at Aston University in Birmingham, UK could help to reduce the incidence and severity of cachexia (weight loss) in cancer patients.

Cachexia is a debilitating wasting condition which occurs predominantly in gastro intestinal (including pancreatic and colon) and lung cancer patients.

Professor Michael Tisdale from Aston explains: ‘About half of all cancer patients suffer from cachexia, but the condition occurs more in some cancers than in others. In pancreatic cancer, for example, the rate is about 85%.  Cachexia produces muscle wasting, which reduces mobility and quality of life and eventually leads to death through respiratory impairment, and is responsible for about one quarter of all cancer deaths.

‘We are investigating the mechanisms of muscle and fat loss due to cachexia in cancer patients. We have discovered a molecule that is produced by tumours that causes muscle loss to start. This molecule has a receptor on the surface of the patient’s skeletal muscle and the idea of the research project is to block this receptor with a special antibody, so that the catabolic molecule cannot get to the skeletal muscle of the cancer patient. This will then prevent the onset of cachexia.

‘The delivery of the new antibody treatment might be through intravenous or subcutaneous injection. We are hoping to see the first results in clinical trials in about four years.’

Halsa Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has been granted an exclusive licence for the use of this anti-cachexia technology developed by Professor Tisdale, in exchange for royalties on the selling price of therapeutic products once they are developed.  In addition, Halsa, a biotechnology company with a focus on metabolic disease, is sponsoring further research at Aston.

‘The team at Halsa is pleased to be extending our work with Aston University and Professor Tisdale on developing this medicine. Halsa is already working on the development of important therapies with respect to metabolic diseases, including diabetes and obesity. This promising drug candidate—fits well with our existing development programs’ said Halsa CEO Phil Speros, Ph.D. ‘Cancer cachexia adversely affects about one million patients in Europe and North America, but there is no approved treatment yet for this devastating disease, and we hope to change that.’


  For further press information or to arrange an interview with Professor Tisdale, please contact Sally Finn on 0121 204 4552.

Notes to editors:

  • Professor Michael Tisdale has been involved in cancer research at Aston since the 1980s and was part of the original team that discovered Methazolastone (temozolomide), which has now become the worldwide agent of choice in the treatment of brain tumours (glioma), achieving $1 billion dollars in sales this year.


  • Aston University specialises in rigorous research that makes an impact on individuals, organisations and society.


  • The new research project will support a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Life & Health Sciences at the University.


  • For further information about the Aston University, visit