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Drug may combat weight loss during radiation treatments

ficant predictor of how well patients fare.

"Weight loss is correlated with decreased overall survival, decreased quality of life and decreased response to treatment," he said. "In addition, if the weight loss is severe enough, it can lead to breaks in treatment that may decrease the effectiveness of therapy."

The study involved 38 patients with lung cancer or cancer of the head and neck who were treated at Wake Forest Baptist or through four other centers. Twenty patients received megestrol acetate daily during eight weeks of radiation treatment and for 12 weeks afterwards. The remaining 18 patients received an inactive placebo during the same time period.

The mean weight for patients receiving megestrol acetate did not change significantly. However, the group receiving placebo had a mean weight loss of 11 pounds after 20 weeks.

Previous studies with megestrol acetate in cancer patients focused on patients with advanced cancer who were already receiving radiation or chemotherapy and had already begun to lose weight. In the current study, patients were given megestrol acetate from the start of treatment, to prevent weight loss.

"While we know that weight loss is associated with a poorer outcome, we don't know for certain that preventing weight loss will improve survival," said Farmer. "This issue has not been well studied and warrants more attention," Farmer said.

The safety of megestrol acetate has been well-documented in the previous studies. Farmer said, however, that patients should be screened for a risk of developing blood clots.

"While there is a small increased risk of blood clots in advanced cancer patients who take megestrol acetate, we did not observe this in our study patients," he said.

The research was initially funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb Oncology. It was conducted by the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University Research Base, a National Cancer Institute funded networ
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
22-Nov-2005


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