Cancer patients, and especially those with advanced disease, often lose their appetites and weight. This "wasting" is usually of great concern not only to the patients, but also to their families and the health professionals who care for them. As a result, patients may lose hope and become resistant to further treatment.
A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic and North Central Cancer Treatment Group in Rochester, Minnesota, found that megestrol acetate (available as Megace) significantly stimulates appetite and causes solid weight gain.
The double-blind, randomized study was reported at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting held in Washington DC by Dr Charles L. Loprinzi.
Loprinzi reported that the drug was well-tolerated and that "an unexpected result was a striking decrease in the incidence of both nausea and vomiting in the patients assigned to megestrol acetate."
It was also noted that "further investigations are currently ongoing to study the use of lower doses of Megace in advanced cancer patients with poor appetites or weight loss." In addition, "a clinical trial is being developed to determine whether megestrol acetate can increase patient survival when used in conjunction with other anti-cancer treatment."
Loprinzi reported that two other clinical trials have also demonstrated that megestrol acetate can stimulate appetite and lead to weight gain in cancer patients with poor appetites or weight loss. When asked about other agents, he said that no other drug to date had produced these results.
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