Background: A pilot study (NCT00316563) to determine if delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can improve taste and smell (chemosensory) perception as well as appetite, caloric intake, and quality of life (QOL) for cancer patients with chemosensory alterations.
Patients and methods: Adult advanced cancer patients, with poor appetite and chemosensory alterations, were recruited from two sites and randomized in a double-blinded manner to receive either THC (2.5 mg, Marinol(®); Solvay Pharma Inc., n = 24) or placebo oral capsules (n = 22) twice daily for 18 days. Twenty-one patients completed the trial. At baseline and posttreatment, patients completed a panel of patient-reported outcomes: Taste and Smell Survey, 3-day food record, appetite and macronutrient preference assessments, QOL questionnaire, and an interview.
Results: THC and placebo groups were comparable at baseline. Compared with placebo, THC-treated patients reported improved (P = 0.026) and enhanced (P < 0.001) chemosensory perception and food 'tasted better' (P = 0.04). Premeal appetite (P = 0.05) and proportion of calories consumed as protein increased compared with placebo (P = 0.008). THC-treated patients reported increased quality of sleep (P = 0.025) and relaxation (P = 0.045). QOL scores and total caloric intake were improved in both THC and placebo groups.
Conclusions: THC may be useful in the palliation of chemosensory alterations and to improve food enjoyment for cancer patients.