Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 1097–1105 | Cite as

The effect of melatonin on sleep and quality of life in patients with advanced breast cancer

  • Pasquale F. Innominato
  • Andrew S. Lim
  • Oxana Palesh
  • Mark Clemons
  • Maureen Trudeau
  • Andrea Eisen
  • Cathy Wang
  • Alex Kiss
  • Kathleen I. Pritchard
  • Georg A. BjarnasonEmail author
Original Article



Fatigue and sleep problems are prevalent in cancer patients and can be associated with disruption of circadian rhythmicity. In this prospective phase II trial, we sought to assess the effect of melatonin on circadian biomarkers, sleep, and quality of life in breast cancer patients.


Thirty-two patients with metastatic breast cancer, receiving hormonal or trastuzumab therapy, took 5 mg of melatonin at bedtime for 2 months. Before starting and after 2 months on melatonin therapy, sleep and circadian rhythmicity were assessed by actigraphy, diurnal patterns of serum cortisol, and the expression of the core clock genes PER2 and BMAL1 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) QLQ-C30 questionnaire was completed for subjective parameters.


Bedtime melatonin was associated with a significant improvement in a marker of objective sleep quality, sleep fragmentation and quantity, subjective sleep, fatigue severity, global quality of life, and social and cognitive functioning scales. Morning clock gene expression was increased following bedtime melatonin intake. Melatonin did not affect actigraphy measure of circadian rhythmicity, or the diurnal cortisol pattern.


These results invite further investigation of melatonin as a potentially useful therapeutic agent for improving sleep and quality of life in cancer patients.


Melatonin Breast cancer Actigraphy Circadian Sleep Quality of life Clock genes 



Supported by a grant from the Ontario Cancer Research Network 03-APR-0316OCRN to Dr. Bjarnason, the National Cancer Institute K07CA132916 to Dr. Palesh, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research OOG MOP125934 to Dr. Lim.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pasquale F. Innominato
    • 1
    • 7
  • Andrew S. Lim
    • 2
  • Oxana Palesh
    • 3
  • Mark Clemons
    • 4
  • Maureen Trudeau
    • 5
  • Andrea Eisen
    • 5
  • Cathy Wang
    • 5
  • Alex Kiss
    • 6
  • Kathleen I. Pritchard
    • 5
  • Georg A. Bjarnason
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.INSERM and Paris South University UMR-S0776, Biological Rhythms and Cancers and APHP, Chronotherapy Unit, Department of OncologyPaul Brousse HospitalVillejuifFrance
  2. 2.Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences CentreUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  4. 4.Division of Medical Oncology, The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, Department of MedicineUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  5. 5.Division of Medical Oncology, Sunnybrook Odette Cancer CentreTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Department of Research Design and BiostatisticsSunnybrook Health Sciences CentreTorontoCanada
  7. 7.Cancer Chronotherapy Unit, Warwick Medical School, Coventry, and Department of OncologyQueen Elisabeth Hospital BriminghamBriminghamUK

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