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Ayelet Erez, MD, PhD

Grant Status

Weizmann Institute of Science

Grant Type
Project Grant

Project Title
Preventing cancer cachexia by regulating amino acid metabolism

Tumor Types

Research Topics
Cancer Treatment, Quality of Life

About the Investigator:

Dr. Erez’s research focuses on understanding the contribution of the urea cycle to the metabolic changes that accompany disease pathogenesis, especially of cancer. She received her BSc and MD degrees from the Technion, and after completing a Residency in Pediatrics she obtained a PhD in Cancer Genetics from Tel Aviv University. After postdoctoral and fellowship training in Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, she joined the faculty at the Weizmann Institute, where she is now an Associate Professor.

About the Research:

Cancer-associated cachexia is evident as ongoing loss of skeletal muscle, with or without loss of fat mass, that cannot be entirely reversed by conventional nutrition support. The onset of cancer-associated cachexia not only decreases the quality of life but also has other negative consequences for a cancer patient, as it increases both the toxicity of chemotherapy and complications from surgeries.

The goal of the proposed research is to understand the mechanism underlying the abnormal homeostatic state in which cachexia begins. In healthy individuals, muscle breakdown leads to flow of amino acids into the liver where excess nitrogen is converted to urea by the urea cycle, for disposal as urea in the urine. Dr. Erez proposes that abnormal cross-talk between the tumor, liver, and muscles occurs in cancer patients, leading to abnormal nitrogen metabolism that contributes to the tumor-induced metabolic alterations characteristic of cachexia. To test this, the initiation and progression of cancer-associated cachexia will first be characterized in mouse models, detailing changes in both metabolism and gene expression. The relevance of these findings to human disease will be evaluated in a retrospective analysis of electronic medical records of cancer patients with and without cachexia. This study may identify new biochemical
biomarkers for diagnosing, monitoring, and treating cancer-associated cachexia, which would have profound impact on cancer patients.


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