Two physiologic sequelae experienced by many women who have undergone cancer treatment are generalized inflammation and estrogen deprivation. The end result can be a drop in their sexual desire.

A team of researchers evaluated 2 dose levels of bupriopion to determine if the drug would improve sexual function in these women. Their findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

For this multisite, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, postmenopausal women who had completed definitive therapy for breast or gynecologic cancer at least 180 days prior and scored less than 3.3 on the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) desire subscale were eligible. A total of 230 women from 72 institutions were recruited through the NRG Oncology NCORP Network.


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Participants were randomly assigned to receive 150 mg once daily of extended-release bupropion, 300 mg once daily, or a placebo. At week 10, the researchers titrated the participants who were taking bupropion off the drug.

The women were asked to complete the FSFI at the beginning of the study and at 9 weeks. The follow-up survey was completed by 195 women. Sexual interest and satisfaction also were evaluated at baseline and weeks 5 and 9 using the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) initiative.

When the PROMIS results from the beginning were compared with the results from week 9, no significant difference in sexual interest, global sexual satisfaction, or fatigue interference with sexual function was noted among any of the women from any of the groups.

Although some promising preliminary data in the cancer survivorship literature might support the use of bupropion to improve sexual desire in women who underwent cancer treatment, the researchers concluded that their results did not support this use. “All participants improved less than one point on the desire subscale, and importantly, all desire scores remained under the cutoff value for dysfunction on the FSFI,” they reported. “This lack of benefit was consistent on other secondary measures of sexual interest and satisfaction.”

One study limitation was that the study population was mostly white and non-Hispanic women. The researchers called for additional research, including the mechanisms of loss of sexual desire and effective treatments, noting that “sexual function remains an unmet need in female cancer survivors.”

Disclosures: Some authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.

Reference

Barton DL, Pugh SL, Ganz PA, et al. Randomized controlled phase II evaluation of two dose levels of bupropion versus placebo for sexual desire in female cancer survivors: NRG-CC004. J Clin Oncol. 2022;40(4):324-334. doi:10.1200/JCO.21.01473