The anabolic effects of exogenous neutral protamine hagedorn insulin on tumor-bearing (TB) and non-tumor-bearing (NTB) rats were examined. Exogenous insulin (2 units/100 g/day) produced similar hypoglycemia in TB and NTB rats. Food intake and body weight gain were significantly increased by insulin in NTB rats. In TB rats in an early stage of cachexia, insulin increased food intake and host weight (total body weight minus tumor weight). In TB rats with severe cachexia, insulin increased food intake and stabilized host weight when untreated TB controls were not eating and were losing weight. When daily insulin administration was started at an early stage of tumor growth and continued until death, there was again significant enhancement of host weight and food intake. Heart and adrenal weights were significantly reduced in insulin-treated TB animals. Tumor growth was not stimulated by insulin treatment. Survival time was slightly reduced in TB rats treated with long-term insulin. Survival time in TB rats randomized to insulin during late cachectic decline was not different from untreated TB controls. Insulin did not have any measurable effect on energy expenditure or the motor activity compartment of energy expenditure in either TB or NTB rats.

Insulin treatment can reverse experimental cancer cachexia. It is a nutritional therapy which preferentially feeds the host over the tumor. As yet, its beneficial effects have not prolonged survival of tumor-bearing animals.

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