Role of methylphenidate in the treatment of fatigue in advanced pancreatic cancer population

Authors Zhenyang Jiang, Harriet Butler-Bowen, Teresa Rodriguez, Marie C. Garcon, Melissa Hennessey Smith, Valerie Relias, Muhammad Wasif Saif.


Background Fatigue is a common but devastating symptom for advanced pancreatic cancer (APC) patients. To date, no proven treatment exists. Methylphenidate (MPH) showed inconsistent results in treating other cancer related fatigue. We performed a retrospective study to assess MPH in ameliorating fatigue in APC patients.

Methods We retrospectively reviewed our clinic APC patients' records who visited from 06/2011 - 11/2014. Fatigue was assessed by Visual Analog Fatigue Scale (VAFS) and classified as grade 1 (VAFS 1-3), grade 2 (VAFS 4-6) and grade 3 (VAFS 7-10) to correspond with CTCAE V4.0. MPH was dosed at 5 mg daily in the morning and was escalated to 10 mg after 2 weeks if needed. The primary endpoint was to assess the change of fatigue grade after 4 weeks of MPH. Secondary outcomes included MPH's effect on depression, anorexia, maintenance chemotherapy intensity and adverse effects.

Results A total of 71 APC patients on concomitant chemotherapy were included, of whom 67% received doublet, 13% triplet, and 20% single-agent chemotherapy. Mean baseline VAFS was 7, which dropped to 4 after 4 weeks of MPH, 55% patients' fatigue score improved by 1 grade, 8% by 2 grades, 23% had fatigue resolved, 14% without benefit. 72% patients maintained chemotherapy intensity, 39% felt less depression and 52% had improved appetite. 13% stopped MPH due to side effects. Rare Grade 3 or 4 adverse events included insomnia, restlessness, palpitations and anorexia.

Conclusions Our findings support low-dose MPH benefits APC patients with improved fatigue, depression and anorexia. A large randomized clinical trial is needed to confirm its usage and safety.

Keywords Methylphenidate, fatigue, pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy, cachexia

Ann Gastroenterol 2016; 29 (4): 536-543

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