Therapeutic potential of anamorelin, a novel, oral ghrelin mimetic, in patients with cancer-related cachexia: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, crossover, pilot study

Support Care Cancer. 2013 Jan;21(1):129-37. doi: 10.1007/s00520-012-1500-1. Epub 2012 Jun 16.


Purpose: Cachexia in cancer adversely affects patients' perception of symptoms, well-being, and response to therapy, and shortens survival. Anamorelin, an oral mimetic of ghrelin, has been shown to increase body weight and anabolic hormone levels in healthy volunteers and is being investigated to treat cancer cachexia.

Methods: This multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study evaluated the effects of anamorelin in 16 patients with different cancers and cachexia. Patients were randomly assigned to anamorelin 50 mg/day or placebo for 3 days. A 3- to 7-day washout period followed and then treatments were switched. Assessments included body weight, appetite, food intake, growth hormone (GH) levels, patient-reported symptom assessments (e.g., the Anderson Symptom Assessment Scale [ASAS] and also an inclusion criterion), and safety.

Results: Anamorelin significantly increased body weight compared with placebo (0.77 kg vs. -0.33 kg). Food intake increased compared with placebo, but not significantly. GH significantly increased at all time points (0.5-4 h postdose). Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) significantly increased by 54.09 ng/mL with anamorelin treatment compared with -3.56 ng/mL for placebo; significant changes in insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) were 0.75 μg/mL vs. -0.19 μg/mL, respectively. Patient-reported symptoms, including appetite as measured by ASAS, significantly improved with anamorelin (8.1 vs. 1.0 for placebo). Adverse events (AEs) in four patients were possibly or probably related to anamorelin: hyperglycemia (two patients), nausea (one patient), and dizziness (one patient). Most AEs were mild; no patients withdrew due to AEs.

Conclusions: Anamorelin showed significant metabolic, clinical, and patient-rated effects in cancer cachexia. Further studies are warranted.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Appetite Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Appetite Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Appetite Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Biomarkers
  • Cachexia / drug therapy*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Ghrelin / administration & dosage*
  • Ghrelin / adverse effects
  • Ghrelin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ghrelin / pharmacology
  • Growth Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Pilot Projects
  • United States
  • Weight Gain / drug effects


  • Appetite Stimulants
  • Biomarkers
  • Ghrelin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone