Nabilone Improves Cancer-Associated Anorexia in Lung Cancer

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Anorexia is a side effect that up to 80% of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer encounter.
Anorexia is a side effect that up to 80% of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer encounter.

Nabilone safely and effectively improves the symptoms of anorexia among patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) compared with placebo, according to a study published in Supportive Care in Cancer.

Up to 80% of patients with advanced NSCLC experience anorexia with disease progression, which results in reduced food intake and cancer anorexia-cachexia syndrome (CACS), leading to poor prognoses and outcomes.

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For this double-blind study, researchers randomly assigned 47 patients with NSCLC to receive nabilone 0.5 mg daily for 2 weeks followed by 1.0 mg daily for 6 weeks or placebo. Patients were evaluated at baseline, and at 4 and 8 weeks after study initiation; patient appetite, quality of life, and nutritional status were also assessed.

By week 8, analysis showed that patients treated with nabilone had an increase in caloric intake (342-kcal) as well as a significant increase in carbohydrate uptake (64 g) vs patients who received placebo only (P =.040).

Patients treated with nabilone also had significant improvements in quality of life, particularly in the areas of role functioning, emotional functioning, social functioning, pain, and insomnia. No changes were observed among patients in the placebo arm.

Results show that nabilone treatment improves the effects of chemotherapy-related anorexia. The authors concluded that “larger trials are necessary in order to draw robust conclusions in regard to its efficacy in lung cancer patients.”


Turcott JG, del Rocio Guillen Nunez M, Flores-Estrada D, et al. The effect of nabilone on appetite, nutritional status, and quality of life in lung cancer patients: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial [published online March 17, 2018]. Support Care Cancer. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4154

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