ProfessorPalliative Care MedicineDepartment of Oncology
University of Alberta
Cross Cancer Institute
11560 University Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 1Z2Tel: 780.432.8232
My research program on muscle and protein metabolism spans two decades and is related to different physiologic and pathologic states where muscle protein growth or wasting occur, including cancer, chemotherapy, sepsis, injury, diabetes, diet, environmental stress and lactation. Extensive contributions to the field of skeletal muscle metabolism. My work has contributed to understanding the roles of protein synthesis and degradation in muscle protein balance in a broad range of physiologic and pathologic states. This represents an important scope and is not at the expense of depth in our work, which also details these responses at the level of signals and biochemical mechanisms (ie Lecker et al. 2004. FASEB J, 18:39-51). I have concentrated on the role of cytokines derived from activated macrophages on protein metabolism in skeletal muscle. An early major contribution was the first observation that a cytokine, Interleukin-1, had a direct action to increase protein catabolism in skeletal muscle (Baracos, VE et al. 1983, New England J. Med. 508:553-558) . The importance of that observation was that it described the first tangible link between inflammation, infection and injury and muscle wasting. The role of pro-inflammatory cytokines as "cachectins" has subsequently become developed and these are now believed to be key factors underlying various forms of wasting. This article has been cited thousands of times, as it introduced the concept of muscle protein mobilization in response to factors derived from the immune response. I continue to explore inflammation-dependant muscle wasting (i.e. Zhang et al. 2000, Am J Physiol 279:E196-205; Mackenzie ML et al. Am J Physiol 2005, 289:E 527-E533) and this is an important link in the mechanism of muscle wasting in infection, cancer and injury. At a cellular level, I seek to identify the role of specific degradative system(s) in different instances of muscle wasting (ie Kwak et al. 2004; Cancer Res. 64(22):8193-8).
Research on cancer-associated malnutrition. My longstanding interest in cancer-associated metabolism has expanded and proliferated in the recent past, culminating in my 2003 appointment in the Dept of Oncology. These works span from the cellular and molecular aspects of malnutrition and wasting, the identity of factors that provoke wasting, and the application of nutritional treatments to reduce wasting. My use of rigorous and standardized animal tumor models and dietary designs has been the subject of invited reviews and major conference presentations, and I additionally have a large cohort of related clinical research in progress. The invitation to write Annual Review of Nutrition this year (Baracos VE Cancer –Associated cachexia and underlying biological mechanisms, Annual Review of Nutrition 2006: 26:435-461) summarizes this understanding of the pathophysiology of malnutrition and wasting.