Purpose: To evaluate the appetite-stimulating properties of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in patients with anorexia due to advanced cancer.
Patients and methods: Nineteen patients with various malignancies were entered. All had cancer-associated anorexia and a life expectancy greater than four weeks. Patients were started on THC 2.5 mg p.o. t.i.d. one hour after meals for four weeks. Evaluations for side effects, efficacy, acceptability and satisfaction were conducted at two and four weeks.
Results: 18 patients were evaluable. Ten patients completed the entire 28-day study. Four patients experienced grade I toxicity and three withdrew at their request. Thirteen patients reported an improved appetite.
Conclusion: THC is an effective appetite stimulant in patients with advanced cancer. It is well tolerated at low doses. Further studies are needed to determine the most appropriate dose and the specific population most likely to respond.