Potential role of levocarnitine supplementation for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced fatigue in non-anaemic cancer patients

Br J Cancer. 2002 Jun 17;86(12):1854-7. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6600413.


Ifosfamide and cisplatin cause urinary loss of carnitine, which is a fundamental molecule for energy production in mammalian cells. We investigated whether restoration of the carnitine pool might improve chemotherapy-induced fatigue in non-anaemic cancer patients. Consecutive patients with low plasma carnitine levels who experienced fatigue during chemotherapy were considered eligible for study entry. Patients were excluded if they had anaemia or other conditions thought to be causing asthenia. Fatigue was assessed by the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Fatigue quality of life questionnaire. Treatment consisted of oral levocarnitine 4 g daily, for 7 days. Fifty patients were enrolled; chemotherapy was cisplatin-based in 44 patients and ifosfamide-based in six patients. In the whole group, baseline mean Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Fatigue score was 19.7 (+/-6.4; standard deviation) and the mean plasma carnitine value was 20.9 microM (+/-6.8; standard deviation). After 1 week, fatigue ameliorated in 45 patients and the mean Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Fatigue score was 34.9 (+/-5.4; standard deviation) (P<.001). All patients achieved normal plasma carnitine levels. Patients maintained the improved Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Fatigue score until the next cycle of chemotherapy. In selected patients, levocarnitine supplementation may be effective in alleviating chemotherapy-induced fatigue. This compound deserves further investigations in a randomised, placebo-controlled study.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Carnitine / blood
  • Carnitine / urine
  • Cisplatin / adverse effects
  • Fatigue / chemically induced
  • Fatigue / metabolism
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ifosfamide / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Nootropic Agents
  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Cisplatin
  • Carnitine
  • Ifosfamide