Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 27, Issue 10, pp 3717–3727 | Cite as

Psychostimulants for cancer-related cognitive impairment in adult cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Nadia Miladi
  • Richi Dossa
  • Maman Joyce Dogba
  • Marie  Immacula Fabienne Cléophat-Jolicoeur
  • Bruno GagnonEmail author
Review Article



Cognitive impairment is recognized as a common symptom experienced by cancer survivors which impacts on quality of life (QoL) and day-to-day activities. One of the treatment options is the use of psychostimulants but the evidence supporting its use remains unclear.


To identify the level of evidence of psychostimulants’ effect on the management of cognitive impairment in adult cancer survivors.


Electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, CINAHL) and reference lists of relevant reviews were searched from inception to December 2017, with no language restrictions applied. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), evaluating the effect of psychostimulants on cognitive impairment among cancer patients with no primary or secondary brain tumor or brain radiation, were included. The primary outcome was cognitive function changes, whereas secondary outcomes were adverse events (AEs) and QoL.


Six RCTs were included: three studies investigating methylphenidate and three modafinil, with a total of 244 and 146 patients, respectively. Due to important differences in methodologies between studies, a meta-analysis was assumed inappropriate for the primary outcome. A narrative synthesis was performed. One study using methylphenidate and two using modafinil demonstrated improvements in some cognitive functions as measured by objective cognitive assessment tests. Psychostimulants did not improve QoL and were not associated with more AEs.


To date, limited evidence is available to estimate the usefulness (or lack) of psychostimulants on cognitive function in this population.


Cancer Cognitive impairment Psychostimulants Survivorship 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The corresponding author (NM) received a scholarship from Université Laval. This study was not done on primary data. Original data can be obtained from the primary authors of articles part of this review.

Supplementary material

520_2019_4907_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oncology DivisionCHU de Québec-Laval University Research CenterQuebec City, QCCanada

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