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Differences in routine laboratory parameters related to cachexia between patients with hematological diseases and patients with solid tumors or heart failure – is there only one cachexia?

Tomislav Letilovic1*, Sonja Perkov2, Zlata Flegar Mestric2 and Radovan Vrhovac3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University Hospital Merkur, University of Zagreb School of Medicine, Zajceva 19, Zagreb, Croatia

2 Department of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, University Hospital Merkur, Zajceva 19, Zagreb, Croatia

3 Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology, University Hospital Centre Zagreb, University of Zagreb School of Medicine, Kispaticeva 14, Zagreb, Croatia

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Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:6  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-6

Published: 7 January 2013



Cachexia is a state of involuntary weight loss common to many chronic diseases. Experimental data, showing that cachexia is related to the enhancement of acute phase response reaction, led to the new definition of cachexia that included, aside from the principal criterion of weight loss, other “minor criteria”, Amongst them are levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), albumin and hemoglobin. However, there is paucity of data regarding possible differences of these laboratory parameters in patients with various diseases known to be related to cachexia.


CRP, albumin and hemoglobin were evaluated in 119 patients, divided into two disease groups, hematological (ones with diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma or Hodgkin disease) and non-hematological (solid tumor patients and patients with chronic heart failure). Patients were further subdivided into two nutritional groups, cachectic and non-cachectic ones according to the principal criterion for cacxehia i.e. loss of body weight.


We found that cachectic patients had higher levels of CRP, and lower levels of both hemoglobin and albumin compared to non-cachectic patients, regardless of the disease group they fitted. On the other hand, the group of hematological patients had lower levels of CRP primarily due to the differences found in the non-cachectic group. Higher levels of albumin were also found in the hematological group regardless of the nutritional group they fitted. Limitations of cut-off values, proposed by definition, were found, mostly regarding their relatively low sensitivity and low negative predictive value.


As expected, differences in values of routine laboratory parameters used in definition of cachexia were found between cachectic and non-cachectic patients. Their values differed between hematological and non-hematological patients both in cachectic and non-cachectic group. Cut-off levels currently used in definition of cachexia have limitations and should be further evaluated.

Cachexia; C-reactive protein; Albumin; Hemoglobin