Oxidative stress plays a role in the tumor-cytotoxic effect of cancer chemotherapy and radiotherapy and also in certain adverse events. In view of these conflicting aspects, a double-blind trial over a 6-month period was performed to determine whether a cysteine-rich protein (IMN1207) may have a positive or negative effect on the clinical outcome if compared with casein, a widely used protein supplement low in cysteine. Sixty-six patients with stage IIIB-IV non-small cell lung cancer were randomly assigned to IMN1207 or casein. Included were patients with a previous involuntary weight loss of > or =3%, Karnofsky status > or =70, and an estimated survival of >3 months. Thirty-five lung cancer patients remained on study at 6 weeks. Overall compliance was not different between treatment arms (42-44% or 13 g/day). The patients treated with the cysteine-rich protein had a mean increase of 2.5% body weight, whereas casein-treated patients lost 2.6% (p = 0.049). Differences in secondary endpoints included an increase in survival, hand-grip force, and quality of life. Adverse events were mild or moderate. Further studies will have to show whether the positive clinical effects can be confirmed and related to specific parameters of oxidative stress in the host.