‘Hunger hormone’ could help chemo patients

A small study from Japan shows that the synthetic version of the so-called ‘hunger hormone’ could help chemo patients regain their appetite, says Reuters. Ghrelin is the hormone that is responsible for our hunger sensation and is, most of the times, related to obesity. Scientists have been trying to find an “anti-obesity” vaccine to inhibit ghrelin, but they have discovered the hormone could have other benefic uses.

The majority of the cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy lose their appetite. Other symptoms like nausea and vomiting are usually experienced with the commonly used cancer drug called cisplatin which lowers the ghrelin level in the body. Researchers are now trying to synthetically reproduce the ‘hunger hormone’ and thus, help cancer patients recover after the treatment.

A group of Japanese scientists have tested the effects of ghrelin over 41 patients undergoing cisplatin treatment for advanced cancer of the esophagus. The respondents were divided into two groups; the first group received ghrelin infusions twice a day before the meals, whereas the second was given infusions of saline. The tests were performed for almost a week.

In the end, results have shown that the synthetic ghrelin was much more effective. The patients who received ghrelin infusions were able to eat larger quantities of food than the rest of the respondents. Moreover, they have gained 50 percent more calories per day than patients who were given saline.

The ‘hunger hormone’ might be used to counteract other symptoms caused by the cisplatin, that is, nausea and vomiting. As a matter of fact, scientists examined the results and noticed that only one in five ghrelin patients experienced nausea, whereas half of the saline group had this problem.

The study was performed by Dr. Yuichiro Hiura and his colleagues at Osaka University. The Japanese government was the remunerator of the research and the findings were published in the journal of Cancer. Thanks to the useful discoveries they have made, the study was well-received by people who work in the field. Nevertheless, further tests need to be performed because this is the first ghrelin study so far.

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