Megestrol acetate in neoplastic anorexia/cachexia: clinical evaluation and comparison with cytokine levels in patients with head and neck carcinoma treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy

  • G. Mantovani
  • A. Macció
  • A. Bianchi
  • L. Curreli
  • M. Ghiani
  • M. C. Santona
  • G. S. Del Giacco


The aim of our study (clinical phase II open pilot study) was to evaluate the toxicity of megestrol acetate and its ability to increase appetite and body weigth in patients with advanced-stage (III–IV) primary head and neck squamous cell carcinoma treated with neoadjuvant (primary) chemotherapy. Serum levels of interleukin-1α and β, interleukin-2 and 6, tumor necrosis factor-α, and the soluble receptor for interleukin-2 were evaluated before and after megestrol acetate treatment. The same cytokines and soluble interleukin-2 receptor were also measured in culture medium of peripheral blood lymphocytes from the same patients after stimulation with phytohemagglutinin. From April 1993 to February 1994, 11 male patients were enrolled in our study: their mean age was 57.8 years (range 43–69 years). Megestrol acetate was administered at a dose of 320 mg/day in the interval between chemotherapeutic cycles for a total of three consecutive cycles; 9 of the 11 patients could be evaluated (81.8%). Except for the performance status according to Karnofsky, all parameters were increased after megestrol acetate treatment. The average weight increased by 6.3 kg (13.2%), appetite by a score of 2.4 (38.6%) and the Spitzer’s quality of life index by a score of 2.4 (36.2%). The performance status according to Karnofsky decreased in only 1 patient, remained the same in most patients, and in 2 patients was slightly improved. No significant side effects were observed during treatment. Serum levels of interleukin-1α and β, interleukin-2 and 6, tumor necrosis factor-α, and soluble interleukin-2 receptor were significantly higher than in normal subjects, prior to treatment with megestrol acetate. These levels dropped after megestrol acetate treatment with a statistically significant decrease for interleukin-1α and β and tumor necrosis factor-α. There were no significant differences in the production of cytokines by peripheral blood lymphocytes stimulated with phytohemagglutinin from patients before megestrol acetate treatment and normal subjects, with the exception of interleukin-6 (higher in patients) and of soluble interleukin-2 receptor (lower in patients). There was no significant difference in the cytokines and soluble interleukin-2 receptor produced in culture before and after megestrol acetate treatment, except for interleukin-6 which decreased after treatment.

Key words

Cytokines Soluble interleukin-2 receptor Head and neck carcinoma Megestrol acetate Neoplastic anorexia/cachexia 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Mantovani
    • 1
  • A. Macció
    • 1
  • A. Bianchi
    • 1
  • L. Curreli
    • 1
  • M. Ghiani
    • 1
  • M. C. Santona
    • 1
  • G. S. Del Giacco
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Medical Oncology, Institute of Internal MedicineUniversity of CagliariCagliariItaly
  2. 2.Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Immunology, Institute of Internal MedicineUniversity of CagliariCagliariItaly

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