An open-label, crossover trial of mirtazapine (15 and 30 mg) in cancer patients with pain and other distressing symptoms

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2002 May;23(5):442-7. doi: 10.1016/s0885-3924(02)00381-0.


We performed a pilot open-label, crossover trial of mirtazapine (15 and 30 mg at night) in advanced cancer patients with pain and other distressing symptoms. Twenty patients completed the trial and sixteen dropped out. Following a baseline assessment, patients completed a one-week observation period and were then randomized to a starting dose of either 15 mg or 30 mg of mirtazapine given at bedtime. After three weeks, subjects were switched to the alternate dose and followed by an additional three-week period, completing the treatment. The average age of the completers was 60.2 years and consisted of 7 women and 13 men. The majority were Caucasian (n = 18, 90%) and married (n = 18, 90%). The drop-out group did not significantly differ from the completers based on age, gender, race, marital status, or tumor type. We examined the impact of mirtazapine therapy on patients' levels of depression, pain intensity, appetite, insomnia, weight, and overall quality of life. A series of repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted to compare the completers' status at Weeks 1, 4, and 7 compared to baseline and to examine the interaction with starting dose and baseline observations. Scores on the Zung self-rating Depression Scale (F = 8.20, P < 0.05) and the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy - General Measure (F = 5.73, P < 0.05) were significantly improved at study end (Week 7) and were not dependent on mirtazapine dosage. Patients' weights were significantly higher at both Week 4 and Week 7, independent of dosage. Trend level differences were found on Memorial Pain Assessment Card items for pain, pain relief, and mood and on numeric rating scales measuring nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and appetite. This open-label pilot study suggests that mirtazapine may be effective for improving multiple symptoms, depression and quality of life in patients with advanced cancer. A controlled trial of this drug would be valuable.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mianserin / administration & dosage
  • Mianserin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Mianserin / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mirtazapine
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life


  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Mianserin
  • Mirtazapine