Medical Marijuana Helpful for Cancer-Linked Symptoms

“Cannabis and cannabinoid pharmaceuticals can be helpful for nausea and vomiting, pain, and weight loss associated with cancer, according to research published online Dec. 10 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

“John L. Kramer, M.D., from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, reviewed evidence for medical uses of marijuana and cannabinoids.

“Kramer notes that marijuana and cannabinoids are used for nausea and vomiting, pain, and for treatment of poor appetite and weight loss. Cannabinoids may also have a role as antineoplastic agents. More high-quality studies of marijuana and cannabinoid pharmaceuticals are necessary to elucidate the various strains of marijuana and their bioactive compounds. Studies should also explore how best to administer marijuana and its bioactive components; differences are noted in pharmacokinetics between oral ingestion and inhalation and there may be variations in clinical effect for different indications. For example, inhalation may be better for treatment of nausea and vomiting. However, smoked marijuana contains carcinogens, and may cause injury to lungs. Marijuana also has acute effects on neuropsychiatric test performance.”


ESMO 2014: Novel Oral Agent Treats Cancer-Related Cachexia in Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer

“For the first time, studies show that a drug is effective in treating cancer-related cachexia. Oral anamorelin hydrochloride increased lean body mass, achieved weight gain, and improved quality of life in patients with cancer-related cachexia in two pivotal phase III studies presented at the ESMO 2014 Congress in Madrid, Spain (Abstract 1483O_PR).

“ ‘Cachexia is one of the most troubling symptoms of cancer for patients and their families. This is a very exciting study. For the first time in more than a decade, a drug is effective in treating cachexia. This will significantly change how we think about cancer-related cachexia and how we treat patients with cancer,’ said study coauthor David Currow, MD, of Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.

“Anamorelin is a first-in-class oral agonist at the ghrelin receptor agonist. Release of ghrelin stimulates multiple pathways that regulate body weight, lean body mass, appetite, and metabolism.

“Patients with cancer-related cachexia keep losing weight and have no appetite. They are often too sick to get the cancer treatment that they need. A drug such as anamorelin may allow patients to be well enough to continue with their cancer treatment.”


Steroid Treatment May Improve Cancer-Related Fatigue

Fatigue is a common and often debilitating symptom for people with advanced cancer. A recent clinical trial found that the steroid dexamethasone reduced fatigue in cancer patients who took it for 14 days. Other related symptoms, such as pain and loss of appetite, also improved, as did overall quality of life. However, in a recent survey, only one-quarter to one-third of cancer physicians said that they regularly use steroids to manage cancer-related fatigue. Because steroids can have serious side effects with long-term use, they may be most useful for patients with limited life expectancies or whose fatigue can be expected to resolve after short-term treatment.


Steroid Treatment May Improve Cancer-Related Fatigue

Fatigue is a common and often debilitating symptom for people with advanced cancer. A recent clinical trial found that the steroid dexamethasone reduced fatigue in cancer patients who took it for 14 days. Other related symptoms, such as pain and loss of appetite, also improved, as did overall quality of life. However, in a recent survey, only one-quarter to one-third of cancer physicians said that they regularly use steroids to manage cancer-related fatigue. Because steroids can have serious side effects with long-term use, they may be most useful for patients with limited life expectancies or whose fatigue can be expected to resolve after short-term treatment.


Steroid Treatment May Improve Cancer-Related Fatigue

Fatigue is a common and often debilitating symptom for people with advanced cancer. A recent clinical trial found that the steroid dexamethasone reduced fatigue in cancer patients who took it for 14 days. Other related symptoms, such as pain and loss of appetite, also improved, as did overall quality of life. However, in a recent survey, only one-quarter to one-third of cancer physicians said that they regularly use steroids to manage cancer-related fatigue. Because steroids can have serious side effects with long-term use, they may be most useful for patients with limited life expectancies or whose fatigue can be expected to resolve after short-term treatment.