Purpose: To compare the effects of cannabis extract (CE), delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and placebo (PL) on appetite and quality of life (QOL) in patients with cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome (CACS).
Patients and methods: Adult patients with advanced cancer, CACS, weight loss (> or = 5% over 6 months), and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (PS) < or = 2 were randomly assigned (2:2:1) to receive CE (standardized for 2.5 mg THC and 1 mg cannabidiol) or THC (2.5 mg) or PL orally, twice daily for 6 weeks. Appetite, mood, and nausea were monitored daily with a visual analog scale (VAS); QOL was assessed with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire C30 (composite score: questions 29 and 30). Cannabinoid-related toxicity was assessed every 2 weeks.
Results: Of 289 patients screened, 243 were randomly assigned and 164 (CE, 66 of 95 patients; THC, 65 of 100 patients; and PL, 33 of 48 patients) completed treatment. At baseline, groups were comparable for age (mean, 61 years), sex (54% men), weight loss (32% > or = 10%), PS (13% ECOG = 2), antineoplastic treatment (50%), appetite (mean VAS score, 31/100 mm), and QOL (mean score, 30/100). Intent-to-treat analysis showed no significant differences between the three arms for appetite, QOL, or cannabinoid-related toxicity. Increased appetite was reported by 73%, 58%, and 69% of patients receiving CE, THC, or PL, respectively. An independent data review board recommended termination of recruitment because of insufficient differences between study arms.
Conclusion: CE at the oral dose administered was well tolerated by these patients with CACS. No differences in patients' appetite or QOL were found either between CE, THC, and PL or between CE and THC at the dosages investigated.