During tumor growth, anorexia and reduced food intake are among the major causes leading to malnutrition and eventually cachexia, which negatively affect patients' outcome. Consistent evidence from our laboratories in rats and humans indicates a key role for ventromedial hypothalamic (VMH) serotonergic system in the development of cancer anorexia. Thus, we postulated that during cancer, increased plasma tryptophan levels (the precursor of serotonin) lead to increased cerebrospinal fluid tryptophan concentrations and increased VMH serotonin synthesis, which then mediates the occurrence of anorexia. However, recent data strongly suggest that factors other than tryptophan supplied to the central nervous system might be involved in the pathogenesis of reduced food intake during tumor growth. Particularly, a significant role appears to be played by interleukin-1 (IL-1). We recently showed that IL-1 infusion in normal rats causes changes in food intake and its determinants, meal number and meal size, similar to those characterizing cancer anorexia, thus supporting the involvement of this cytokine in the development of anorexia. Interestingly, IL-1 and the VMH serotonergic system appear to be closely linked: peripherally infused IL-1 increases brain tryptophan and serotonin concentrations, while intracerebrally infused IL-1 increases neuronal firing rate and serotonin release. We therefore hypothesize that during tumor growth, increased production/secretion of IL-1 occurs, which facilitates the tryptophan supply to the brain. IL-1 can then also act on the VHM itself, where IL-1 receptors exist, to increase its neuronal activity and serotonin release. In other words, we believe that centrally acting IL-1 increases hypothalamic neuronal firing rate and serotonin release, while peripherally acting IL-1 is critical in supplying the hypothalamus with the precursor, tryptophan, in order to maintain the high rate of serotonin synthesis. Also, additional factors recently proposed as mediators of anorexia (including neuropeptide Y and nitric oxide) appear to be part of the hypothesized pathogenic mechanism.