Mirtazapine versus Megestrol in the Treatment of Anorexia-Cachexia Syndrome in Patients with Advanced Cancer: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Phase II Clinical Trial

Cancers (Basel). 2023 Jul 12;15(14):3588. doi: 10.3390/cancers15143588.


This study compared mirtazapine with megestrol in the management of cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome in patients with advanced cancer. A randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial involving patients with advanced cancer and anorexia-cachexia syndrome was performed. Participants received mirtazapine 30 mg/day or megestrol 320 mg/day for eight weeks. The primary endpoint was the effect of mirtazapine on weight gain and the secondary endpoints were its effect on appetite, muscle strength, physical performance, body composition, adverse events, and medication adherence. Linear regression model with mixed effects was applied and a significance level of 5% was adopted. Fifty-two patients were randomized. Mean age was 65.8 ± 8.4 years. There was weight gain in 52% of the participants in the megestrol group and in 38% in the mirtazapine group after four weeks (p = 0.040). Appetite improved in 92% of the participants in the megestrol group and in 56% in the mirtazapine group after eight weeks (p = 0.007). In the sub-analysis by sex, women showed improvement in appetite (p < 0.001) and weight gain (p < 0.005) in the mirtazapine group, which was not observed in men. Mirtazapine appears to be inferior to megestrol in weight and appetite improvement. However, there may be a difference in the therapeutic response between sexes.

Keywords: anorexia; cachexia; cancer; megestrol; mirtazapine.