A clinically translatable mouse model for chemotherapy-related fatigue

Comp Med. 2013;63(6):491-7.


Fatigue is a debilitating and pervasive complication of cancer and cancer care. Clinical research investigating potential therapies is hindered by variability in patient histories, different metrics for measuring fatigue, and environmental factors that may affect fatigue. The purpose of this study was to establish an animal model of chemotherapy-related fatigue. Female HSD:ICR mice were treated with doxorubicin (2.5 mg/kg) or saline in 2 cycles (days 1 through 3 and 10 through 12). After treatment, mice were individually housed in cages equipped with running wheels. Open-field activity and motor coordination were examined after each cycle of treatment and after each week of wheel running. In a separate cohort, modafinil (50 mg/kg) was assessed as a potential treatment for fatigue. Doxorubicin administration resulted in greater than 30% less wheel running compared with that of saline controls. Activity differences were specific to wheel running: neither distance traveled in the open field nor motor coordination according to the rotarod test differed between groups. Compared with control values, RBC counts in the doxorubicin group were decreased on days 15 and 22 but recovered to control levels by study completion. Modafinil was efficacious in increasing wheel running in the doxorubicin group. The current results establish an animal model of chemotherapy-related fatigue that recapitulates the physical symptoms of cancer-related fatigue as manifested as decreased voluntary activity. This model is sensitive to pharmaceutical intervention and can be used to screen potential treatments for fatigue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Doxorubicin / adverse effects*
  • Fatigue / chemically induced*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Modafinil


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Doxorubicin
  • Modafinil