Newswise — A novel preclinical mouse model of pancreatic cancer may promote better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to disability in human cancer patients, according to the findings of a new study presented this week at the Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting.

Cachexia is a wasting disease common in cancer and many other chronic diseases marked by severe loss of body weight and muscle. This may lead to progressive loss of function in cancer patients. However, how cachexia or cancer cause physical or cognitive functional decline at the physiologic level is still unknown, said Ishan Roy, MD, PhD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation resident at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Current knowledge about the physiological mechanisms of disability in cancer patients is poor because of a lack of sufficient longitudinal models. Researchers need animal models for their cancer investigations in order to one day develop more effective, targeted rehabilitation interventions,” said Dr. Roy.

After an extensive search, they Dr. Roy and a team of researchers funded by the innovative Catalyst grant program at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab found that no current animal models of cancer are effective for studying rehabilitation-relevant scientific questions. They conducted this study with a goal to develop a new, low-cost mouse model of pancreatic cancer through careful and rigorous optimization experiments.

After titrating a variety of materials, including cells and injection vehicles, Dr. Roy and colleagues developed a novel model they named “F-panc.” Importantly, this model successfully extended the survival of cachexia models from a median of 14 days to a median of 60 days. After in vivo and ex vivo tissue analysis, they found that the optimized model generated skeletal and cardiac muscle mass loss, along with physical function loss.

This is the first study to develop a model of cancer or cancer-associated cachexia that leads to longitudinal functional decline. These findings may help cancer researchers look deeper into physiologic mechanisms that lead to functional declines in cancer patients and test targeted rehabilitation interventions that may help them regain function, he said.

“In future studies, researchers may use this model to identify new targets for pharmaceutical, rehabilitation and exercise treatments of both cancer and cachexia.”



The Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) is a professional society with a mission to create the future of academic physiatry through mentorship, leadership, and discovery. Its members are leading physicians, researchers, educators and in-training physiatrists from over 40 countries. The AAP holds an Annual Meeting, produces a leading medical journal in rehabilitation: AJPM&R, and leads a variety of programs and activities that support and enhance academic physiatry. On February 9-13, 2021, the AAP is hosting its first-ever virtual Annual Meeting, Physiatry ‘21. To learn more about the association, the specialty of physiatry and Physiatry ‘21, visit and follow us on Twitter at @AAPhysiatrists.


Meeting Link: Physiatry '21, February 2021