, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 577-583
Date: 31 Oct 2007

A randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of the effects of d-methylphenidate on fatigue and cognitive dysfunction in women undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer

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Women who receive adjuvant chemotherapy for breast cancer develop fatigue, and a subset reports cognitive impairment. Methylphenidate is reported to improve fatigue and to decrease cognitive impairment in other populations.

Materials and methods

Women were randomised early during their chemotherapy to receive d-methylphenidate (d-MPH), a form of methylphenidate, or an identical appearing placebo. All participants took placebo for one cycle to ensure compliance and then study medication until completion of chemotherapy. Subjects were assessed at baseline, end of chemotherapy and at ∼6 months follow-up with the High Sensitivity Cognitive Screen (HSCS) and the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised (HVLT-R). They also completed the self-report Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G) and FACT-F (F = fatigue) questionnaires, evaluating quality of life and fatigue.


A total of 57 evaluable women were randomised: 29 to d-MPH and 28 to placebo; the study did not meet its accrual goal of 170 patients, mainly because women were reluctant to take additional medication in general and methylphenidate in particular. Groups were well matched for age (median, 50 years) and education. d-MPH and placebo were well tolerated. There were no significant differences between the randomised groups in classification of cognitive function by HSCS or in summed FACT-F fatigue scores (the primary endpoints of the study) at any of the assessments. There were also no differences in HLTV-R scores or quality of life.


This study is underpowered, but there are no trends to suggest that d-MPH, taken concurrently with adjuvant chemotherapy, improves quality of life or fatigue.