Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 9, pp 3029–3038 | Cite as

The effect of nabilone on appetite, nutritional status, and quality of life in lung cancer patients: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial

  • Jenny G. Turcott
  • María del Rocío Guillen Núñez
  • Diana Flores-Estrada
  • Luis F. Oñate-Ocaña
  • Zyanya Lucia Zatarain-Barrón
  • Feliciano Barrón
  • Oscar ArrietaEmail author
Original Article



Over one half of the patients diagnosed with advanced lung cancer experience anorexia. In addition to its high incidence, cancer-induced anorexia promotes the development of the anorexia-cachexia syndrome, which is related to poor clinical outcomes. Recently, drugs derived from cannabinoids, such as Nabilone, have been recognized for their appetite improvement properties; however, clinical trials to support their use in cancer patients are necessary.


This is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of Nabilone vs. placebo on the appetite, nutritional status, and quality of life in patients diagnosed with advanced Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (NCT02802540).


A total of 65 patients from the outpatient clinic at the National Institute of Cancer (INCan) were assessed for eligibility and 47 were randomized to receive Nabilone (0.5 mg/2 weeks followed by 1.0 mg/6 weeks) or placebo. After 8 weeks of treatment, patients who received Nabilone increased their caloric intake (342-kcal) and had a significantly higher intake of carbohydrates (64 g) compared to patients receiving placebo (p = 0.040). Quality of life also showed significant improvements in patients in the experimental arm of the trial, particularly in role functioning (p = 0.030), emotional functioning (p = 0.018), social functioning (p = 0.036), pain (p = 0.06), and insomnia (p = 0.020). No significant change in these scales was seen in the control group.


Nabilone is an adequate and safe therapeutic option to aid in the treatment of patients diagnosed with anorexia. Larger trials are necessary in order to draw robust conclusions in regard to its efficacy in lung cancer patients.


Anorexia Orexigenic agent Energy consumption Lung cancer Quality of life 



Nabilone and placebo were donated by vealent pharmaceutical without any further participation in the trial.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Supplementary material

520_2018_4154_MOESM1_ESM.docx (56 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 55 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenny G. Turcott
    • 1
  • María del Rocío Guillen Núñez
    • 2
  • Diana Flores-Estrada
    • 1
  • Luis F. Oñate-Ocaña
    • 3
  • Zyanya Lucia Zatarain-Barrón
    • 1
  • Feliciano Barrón
    • 1
  • Oscar Arrieta
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Head of Thoracic Oncology Unit and Experimental Oncology LaboratoryInstituto Nacional de Cancerología de México (INCan)MéxicoMexico
  2. 2.Pain Management Clinic, National Cancer Institute of Mexico (INCan)CDMXMexico
  3. 3.Clinical Research Division, Surgery Division, National Cancer Institute of Mexico (INCan)CDMXMexico

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