Anorexia, the loss of appetite or desire to eat, is the most common symptom in cancer patients. It may occur early in the disease process or later, in cases where the cancer progresses. Cachexia is a wasting condition in which the patient has weakness and a marked and progressive loss of body weight, fat, and muscle. Anorexia and cachexia frequently occur together, but cachexia may occur in patients who are eating an adequate diet but have malabsorption of nutrients. Maintenance of body weight and adequate nutritional status can help patients feel and look better, and maintain or improve their performance status. It may also help them better tolerate cancer therapy.
There are a variety of options for supportive nutritional care of cancer patients, including changes in diet and consumption of foods, enteral or parenteral feeding (delivery of nutrients by tube), and the use of drugs. An NCI-supported study to evaluate the effects of THC and megestrol acetate (a synthetic female hormone) used alone and in combination for treatment-related and cancer-related anorexia and cachexia completed patient accrual earlier this year. Researchers will compare the appetite, weight, and rate of weight change among patients treated with THC to patients treated with megestrol acetate or with both therapies. Researchers will also evaluate the effects of the drugs alone or in combination on nausea and vomiting, assess for toxic effects of the drugs, and evaluate differences in quality of life among those patients who were treated with THC.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), part of the National Academy of Sciences, has published a report assessing the scientific knowledge of health effects and possible medical uses of marijuana. The IOM project was funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The IOM released its report on March 17, 1999.
Copies of the report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, are available from National Academy Press, Lockbox 285, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20055; (202) 334–3313 or 1–888–624–8373. The full text of the IOM report is also available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=6376 on the Internet.
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