Anti-cachectic effect of clarithromycin for patients with unresectable non-small cell lung cancer

Chemotherapy. 2001 Dec;47(6):444-51. doi: 10.1159/000048556.


We have previously reported that long-term treatment with clarithromycin (CAM) increased the median survival of patients with non-small cell lung cancer, and improved various clinical parameters in these patients. In the present study, CAM was administered to 33 patients with unresectable primary non-small cell lung cancer, who had received chemotherapy, radiotherapy or both (basic cancer therapy). Patients with clinical backgrounds matched to the CAM group, who did not receive CAM treatment, were included into this study as a control group (non-CAM group). CAM treatment was initiated 4 weeks after the basic cancer therapy. The non-CAM group did not receive a placebo. Before and after the 3-month treatment with CAM, body weight, serum levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6, a cytokine which, together with TNF-alpha, plays a crucial role in the development of cancer cachexia), total protein, albumin, cholinesterase and hemoglobin were measured for the evaluation of the patients' clinical status. There were no statistically significant differences in serum levels of IL-6 between the CAM group before the treatment and the non-CAM group. After 3 months of CAM treatment, serum levels of IL-6 significantly decreased. In contrast, body weight, cholinesterase, and hemoglobin increased to a significant extent. Among these four parameters, however, the decrease in serum IL-6 levels was only statistically correlated with the increase in body weight, but not with that in other parameters. Furthermore, CAM-treated patients whose serum IL-6 levels were decreased after 3 months of treatment survived longer: there was a statistically significant correlation between the decrease in serum IL-6 and survival time. In contrast, in the non-CAM group, these parameters did not change significantly during the study. These results suggest that CAM may reduce the progression of cancer-associated cachexia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Body Weight
  • Cachexia / drug therapy*
  • Cachexia / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / complications*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / radiotherapy
  • Clarithromycin / pharmacology*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Gain


  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-6
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Clarithromycin