Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 126–129

Treatment of cancer chemotherapy-induced toxicity with the pineal hormone melatonin


  • P. Lissoni
    • Division of Radiation OncologyS. Gerardo Hospital
  • G. Tancini
    • Division of Radiation OncologyS. Gerardo Hospital
  • S. Barni
    • Division of Radiation OncologyS. Gerardo Hospital
  • F. Paolorossi
    • Division of Radiation OncologyS. Gerardo Hospital
  • A. Ardizzoia
    • Division of Radiation OncologyS. Gerardo Hospital
  • A. Conti
    • Institute of Pathology
  • G. Maestroni
    • Institute of Pathology
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/BF01262569

Cite this article as:
Lissoni, P., Tancini, G., Barni, S. et al. Support Care Cancer (1997) 5: 126. doi:10.1007/BF01262569


Experimental data have suggested that the pineal hormone melatonin (MLT) may counteract chemotherapy-induced myelosuppression and immunosuppression. In addition, MLT has been shown to inhibit the production of free radicals, which play a part in mediating the toxicity of chemotherapy. A study was therefore performed in an attempt to evaluate the influence of MLT on chemotherapy toxicity. The study involved 80 patients with metastatic solid tumors who were in poor clinical condition (lung cancer: 35; breast cancer: 31; gastrointestinal tract tumors: 14). Lung cancer patients were treated with cisplatin and etoposide, breast cancer patients with mitoxantrone, and gastrointestinal tract tumor patients with 5-fluorouracil plus folates. Patients were randomised to receive chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus MLT (20 mg/day p.o. in the evening). Thrombocytopenia was significantly less frequent in patients concomitantly treated with MLT. Malaise and asthenia were also significantly less frequent in patients receiving MLT. Finally, stomatitis and neuropathy were less frequent in the MLT group, albeit without statistically significant differences. Alopecia and vomiting were not influenced by MLT. This pilot study seems to suggest that the concomitant administration of the pineal hormone MLT during chemotherapy may prevent some chemotherapy-induced side-effects, particularly myelosuppression and neuropathy. Evaluation of the impact of MLT on chemotherapy efficacy will be the aim of future clinical investigations.

Key words

Chemotherapy Melatonin Myelosuppression Toxicity

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1997