Two-Year Trends of Taxane-Induced Neuropathy in Women Enrolled in a Randomized Trial of Acetyl-L-Carnitine (SWOG S0715)

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2018 Jun 1;110(6):669-676. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djx259.


Background: Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a common and disabling side effect of taxanes. Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) was unexpectedly found to increase CIPN in a randomized trial. We investigated the long-term patterns of CIPN among patients in this trial.

Methods: S0715 was a randomized, double-blind, multicenter trial comparing ALC (1000 mg three times a day) with placebo for 24 weeks in women undergoing adjuvant taxane-based chemotherapy for breast cancer. CIPN was measured by the 11-item neurotoxicity (NTX) component of the FACT-Taxane scale at weeks 12, 24, 36, 52, and 104. We examined NTX scores over two years using linear mixed models for longitudinal data. Individual time points were examined using linear regression. Regression analyses included stratification factors and the baseline score as covariates. All statistical tests were two-sided.

Results: Four-hundred nine subjects were eligible for evaluation. Patients receiving ALC had a statistically significantly (P = .01) greater reduction in NTX scores (worse CIPN) of -1.39 points (95% confidence interval [CI] = -2.48 to -0.30) than the placebo group. These differences were particularly evident at weeks 24 (-1.68, 95% CI = -3.02 to -0.33), 36 (-1.37, 95% CI = -2.69 to -0.04), and 52 (-1.83, 95% CI = -3.35 to -0.32). At 104 weeks, 39.5% on the ALC arm and 34.4% on the placebo arm reported a five-point (10%) decrease from baseline. For both treatment groups, 104-week NTX scores were statistically significantly different compared with baseline (P < .001).

Conclusions: For both groups, NTX scores were reduced from baseline and remained persistently low. Twenty-four weeks of ALC therapy resulted in statistically significantly worse CIPN over two years. Understanding the mechanism of this persistent effect may inform prevention and treatment strategies. Until then, the potential efficacy and harms of commonly used supplements should be rigorously studied.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcarnitine / administration & dosage*
  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docetaxel / administration & dosage
  • Docetaxel / adverse effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / prevention & control*
  • Paclitaxel / administration & dosage
  • Paclitaxel / adverse effects
  • Placebos
  • Taxoids / administration & dosage
  • Taxoids / adverse effects*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Placebos
  • Taxoids
  • Docetaxel
  • Acetylcarnitine
  • Paclitaxel