Reuters’ Kathryn Doyle reports that notwithstanding encouraging results in the past, a new clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has determined that orally administered Melatonin has proved ineffective in helping advanced cancer patients improve appetites or achieve weight loss.
“We had great enthusiasm for it also based on these other trials, and were quite disappointed when it didn’t work,” the survey’s lead author, Dr. Egidio Del Fabbro of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who studies rapid loss of muscle mass in cancer patients – a condition known as cachexia – told Reuters Health.
The report notes that while some previous research had suggested the hormone, which is produced naturally in the human body and associated with appetite and metabolism, as well as regulating sleep cycles in healthy adults, may improve cancer patients’ appetites when taken in supplement form, those studies had not included control groups receiving dummy doses of melatonin.
Dr. Del Fabbro attributes apparent benefits of Melatonin supplementation the previous studies to the placebo effect. In their study, he and his colleagues divided 70 subjects suffering from advanced lung or gastrointestinal cancer, poor appetite and recent unintentional weight loss, into one group given 20 milligrams of melatonin nightly for 28 days, and a control group that took a placebo. After the four week trial, Melatonin and placebo groups had essentially the same appetite, weight changes, pain levels and quality of life scores, Del Fabbro’s team reports.
Unhappily, in late stage cancer, the body tends to consume its own muscle mass, while patients have decreased appetite, nausea and reduced ability to absorb nutrients from what food they do eat, and treatment options are very limited. At least no harmful effects were noted from the Melatonin therapy, so if a patient derives subjective benefit from taking Melatonin, which is relatively inexpensive and available over the counter, this trial indicated that it’s unlikely to hurt them.