A review of cachexia: a tribute to Ken Fearon

A review of cachexia: a tribute to Ken Fearon

We dedicate this special addition on cachexia to the late Professor Ken Fearon. Many of us count him as a mentor and guide when counseling and treating patients with cancer cachexia. He was instrumental in advancing the knowledge, the staging and management of cachexia internationally.

Ken was Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Edinburgh. His career began as a student of medicine at the University of Glasgow where he graduated as the most distinguish student in 1982. He achieved a Doctorate in Medicine in 1986 under Professor Sir Kenneth Calman. Under Professor Calman he studied and researched topics in nutrition and cancer. His MD thesis was “Mechanisms and Treatment of Cancer Cachexia”. In his short 30-year academic career he published over 170 original studies and numerous book chapters. His paper published in the Lancet in 2011, “Definitions and Classification of Cancer Cachexia, An International Consensus” is a landmark publication and one of the most cited papers on cancer cachexia. In a span of just 4 years his achievements were recognized with the David Cuthbertson Medal in 1991 and internationally with the Arvid Wretlind Award of ESPEN in 2011. He received numerous other awards for his work. His wife, Professor Marie Fallon, St Columba’s Hospital Chair of Palliative Care at the University of Edinburgh helped guide him in the direction of palliative care.

We all have fond memories of Ken. Mine dates to the anamorelin trials in lung cancer. Both Ken and I (MP Davis) were there with prominent thoracic oncologists. I watched Ken interview, lead discusses with humor and purpose. Ken was both unassuming and approachable. We have lost a brilliant man who has contributed to the care of innumerable patients internationally.

Marie Fallon adds her appreciation:

Ken was a very special person. He was blessed with many talents; intelligence, wit, creativity, focus and of course a profound humanity. He touched so many, both professionally and personally. We cope with Ken’s loss by knowing that his was a life well lived to the full and a life which leaves many treasures.



Mellar P. Davis
Eduardo Bruera

Mellar P. Davis, MD, FCCP, FAAHPM

Director of Palliative Services, Geisinger Health System, Danville, PA, USA.
(Email: mdavis2@geisinger.edu)

Eduardo Bruera, MD

FT McGraw Chair in the Treatment of Cancer, Chair, Department of Palliative, Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.
(Email: ebruera@mdanderson.org)

doi: 10.21037/apm.2018.08.01

Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Cite this article as: Davis MP, Bruera E. A review of cachexia: a tribute to Ken Fearon. Ann Palliat Med 2019;8(1):1-2. doi: 10.21037/apm.2018.08.01