Treatment of cancer chemotherapy-induced toxicity with the pineal hormone melatonin

Support Care Cancer. 1997 Mar;5(2):126-9. doi: 10.1007/BF01262569.


Experimental data have suggested that the pineal hormone melatonin (MLT) may counteract chemotherapy-induced myelosuppression and immunosuppression. In addition, MLT has been shown to inhibit the production of free radicals, which play a part in mediating the toxicity of chemotherapy. A study was therefore performed in an attempt to evaluate the influence of MLT on chemotherapy toxicity. The study involved 80 patients with metastatic solid tumors who were in poor clinical condition (lung cancer: 35; breast cancer: 31; gastrointestinal tract tumors: 14). Lung cancer patients were treated with cisplatin and etoposide, breast cancer patients with mitoxantrone, and gastrointestinal tract tumor patients with 5-fluorouracil plus folates. Patients were randomised to receive chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus MLT (20 mg/day p.o. in the evening). Thrombocytopenia was significantly less frequent in patients concomitantly treated with MLT. Malaise and asthenia were also significantly less frequent in patients receiving MLT. Finally, stomatitis and neuropathy were less frequent in the MLT group, albeit without statistically significant differences. Alopecia and vomiting were not influenced by MLT. This pilot study seems to suggest that the concomitant administration of the pineal hormone MLT during chemotherapy may prevent some chemotherapy-induced side-effects, particularly myelosuppression and neuropathy. Evaluation of the impact of MLT on chemotherapy efficacy will be the aim of future clinical investigations.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Bone Marrow Diseases / chemically induced
  • Bone Marrow Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pineal Gland / physiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Melatonin