Purpose: To determine whether dronabinol administered alone or with megestrol acetate was more, less, or equal in efficacy to single-agent megestrol acetate for palliating cancer-associated anorexia.
Patients and methods: Four hundred sixty-nine assessable advanced cancer patients were randomized to (1) oral megestrol acetate 800 mg/d liquid suspension plus placebo, (2) oral dronabinol 2.5 mg twice a day plus placebo, or (3) both agents. Eligible patients acknowledged that loss of appetite or weight was a problem and reported the loss of 5 pounds or more during 2 months and/or a daily intake of less than 20 calories/kg of body weight.
Results: Groups were comparable at baseline in age, sex, tumor type, weight loss, and performance status. A greater percentage of megestrol acetate-treated patients reported appetite improvement and weight gain compared with dronabinol-treated patients: 75% versus 49% (P =.0001) for appetite and 11% versus 3% (P =.02) for > or = 10% baseline weight gain. Combination treatment resulted in no significant differences in appetite or weight compared with megestrol acetate alone. The Functional Assessment of Anorexia/Cachexia Therapy questionnaire, which emphasizes anorexia-related questions, demonstrated an improvement in quality of life (QOL) among megestrol acetate-treated and combination-treated patients. The single-item Uniscale, a global QOL instrument, found comparable scores. Toxicity was also comparable, with the exception of an increased incidence of impotence among men who received megestrol acetate.
Conclusion: In the doses and schedules we studied, megestrol acetate provided superior anorexia palliation among advanced cancer patients compared with dronabinol alone. Combination therapy did not appear to confer additional benefit.