Cancer-Associated Anorexia and Cachexia: Implications for Drug Therapy

C. L. Loprinzi, R. M. Goldberg, N. L. Burnham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Anorexia and cachexia are major problems in patients with cancer. Such measures as anticancer therapy, dietary counselling or hyperalimentation are not very successful in reversing this phenomenon in the vast majority of cancer patients. Thus, several drugs have been evaluated as agents to ameliorate cancer-associated anorexia/cachexia. Cyproheptadine is an antiserotonergic drug which appears to cause slight appetite stimulation in patients. A randomised clinical trial, however, was unable to demonstrate any weight gain from this agent. Corticosteroids are frequently used in clinical practice for appetite stimulation in patients with advanced malignancies. Supporting this practice, 4 randomised clinical trials showed that corticosteroid medications can stimulate the appetites of advanced cancer patients. However, these studies were not able to show any substantial nonfluid weight gain in treated patients. Megestrol acetate is a progestational agent which appears to be a relatively potent appetite stimulant. Randomised studies in advanced cancer patients have shown both substantial appetite stimulation and improvement in the nonfluid bodyweights of patients receiving this drug. Preliminary evidence also suggests that this drug has antiemetic properties. Several clinical studies are currently ongoing to determine the effect of various doses of megestrol acetate in patients with cancer. Efforts are also ongoing to evaluate both anabolic steroids and hydrazine sulfate as drugs for the treatment of patients with cancer anorexia/cachexia. The preliminary nature of these investigations, however, precludes recommendations for the use of either of these latter 2 drugs in routine clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-506
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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