Inflammation and cancer-related fatigue: mechanisms, contributing factors, and treatment implications

Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Mar;30 Suppl(0):S48-57. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.06.011. Epub 2012 Jul 6.


Fatigue is one of the most common and distressing side effects of cancer and its treatment, and may persist for years after treatment completion in otherwise healthy survivors. Guided by basic research on neuro-immune interactions, a growing body of research has examined the hypothesis that cancer-related fatigue is driven by activation of the pro-inflammatory cytokine network. In this review, we examine the current state of the evidence linking inflammation and cancer-related fatigue, drawing from recent human research and from experimental animal models probing effects of cancer and cancer treatment on inflammation and fatigue. In addition, we consider two key questions that are currently driving research in this area: what are the neural mechanisms of fatigue, and what are the biological and psychological factors that influence the onset and/or persistence of inflammation and fatigue in cancer patients and survivors? Identification of the mechanisms driving cancer-related fatigue and associated risk factors will facilitate the development of targeted interventions for vulnerable patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / therapy
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Risk Factors