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Acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue in lung cancer patients: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial

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Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a distressing symptom that is the most common unpleasant side effect experienced by lung cancer patients and is challenging for clinical care workers to manage.


We performed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial to evaluate the clinical effect of acupuncture on CRF in lung cancer patients. Twenty-eight patients presenting with CRF were randomly assigned to active acupuncture or placebo acupuncture groups to receive acupoint stimulation (LI-4, Ren-6, St-36, KI-3, and Sp-6) twice per week for 4 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of follow-up. The primary outcome was the change in intensity of CFR based on the Chinese version of the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI-C). As the secondary endpoint, the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Lung Cancer Subscale (FACT-LCS) was adopted to assess the influence of acupuncture on patients’ quality of life (QOL). Adverse events and safety of treatments were monitored throughout the trial.


Our pilot study demonstrated feasibility among patients with appropriate inclusion criteria and good compliance with acupuncture treatment. A significant reduction in the BFI-C score was observed at 2 weeks in the 14 participants who received active acupuncture compared with those receiving the placebo (P < 0.01). At week 6, symptoms further improved according to the BFI-C (P < 0.001) and the FACT-LCS (P = 0.002). There were no significant differences in the incidence of adverse events in either group (P > 0.05).


Fatigue is a common symptom experienced by lung cancer patients. Acupuncture may be a safe and feasible optional method for adjunctive treatment in cancer palliative care, and appropriately powered trials are warranted to evaluate the effects of acupuncture.

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The authors would like to thank Professor Zhiqiang Meng for his contributions to the organization of this study and his valuable advices. This study was supported by grants from the Comprehensive and Integrative Medicine Institute (CIMI) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81403248).

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Correspondence to Xiao-yan Zhu or Jing Xie.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Written informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All procedures performed in studies were in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards and with the ethical standards of the Shanghai Cancer Center, Fudan University ( Identifier: NCT01881516).

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Cheng, Cs., Chen, Ly., Ning, Zy. et al. Acupuncture for cancer-related fatigue in lung cancer patients: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial. Support Care Cancer 25, 3807–3814 (2017).

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