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Pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions improve food intake in cancer related anorexia and cachexia

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QUESTION: What is the effectiveness of various strategies for management of cancer related anorexia and cachexia?

Data sources

Studies were identified by searching the Cochrane Library, Medline, CANCERLIT, CINAHL, Dissertation Abstracts, EBM Reviews–Best Evidence, EMBASE/Excerpta Medica, and the Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP).

Study selection

Clinical trials were selected if the focus was to increase food intake, decrease energy expenditure, minimise weight loss, or minimise factors affecting food intake or energy expenditure in patients with cancer. Studies of micronutrient supplementation over recommended daily allowances and alternative dietary cancer treatments were excluded.

Data extraction

Data were extracted on study design and setting, sample and follow up, intervention and adherence measures, outcome measures, and analysis.

Main results

7 clinical trials of non-pharmacological interventions, 4 reviews of pharmacological interventions and exercise, 1 meta-analysis of nursing symptom management, and 3 general overviews met the selection criteria. Non-pharmacological interventions: 7 …

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  • Sources of funding: Oncology Nursing Foundation/Chiron Therapeutics Research Fellowship and Ortho Biotech Products.

  • For correspondence: Dr J K Brown, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA. jebrown{at}