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Study: THC Improves Appetite for Cancer Patients

Study: THC Improves Appetite for Cancer Patients

Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 10/19/2011 in Medical Marijuana Studies

tudy: Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol may palliate altered chemosensory perception in cancer patients: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial

Published: Annals of Oncology. 2011 Feb 22. 

Researchers: Brisbois TD, de Kock IH, Watanabe SM, Mirhosseini M, Lamoureux DC, Chasen M, Macdonald N, Baracos VE, Wismer WV.

Read the Study >>


This study was published in the Annals of Oncology, a multidisciplinary journal that publishes articles addressing medical oncology, surgery, radiotherapy, paediatric oncology, basic research and the comprehensive management of patients with malignant diseases. Annals of Oncology is the official journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology. This 2011 study determined that THC, the active ingredient in medical marijuana, is useful in helping cancer patients improve appetite and enjoy food.


Background: A pilot study (NCT00316563) to determine if delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can improve taste and smell (chemosensory) perception as well as appetite, caloric intake, and quality of life (QOL) for cancer patients with chemosensory alterations.

Patients and methods: Adult advanced cancer patients, with poor appetite and chemosensory alterations, were recruited from two sites and randomized in a double-blinded manner to receive either THC (2.5 mg, Marinol®; Solvay Pharma Inc., n = 24) or placebo oral capsules (n = 22) twice daily for 18 days. Twenty-one patients completed the trial. At baseline and posttreatment, patients completed a panel of patient-reported outcomes: Taste and Smell Survey, 3-day food record, appetite and macronutrient preference assessments, QOL questionnaire, and an interview.

Results: THC and placebo groups were comparable at baseline. Compared with placebo, THC-treated patients reported improved (P = 0.026) and enhanced (P < 0.001) chemosensory perception and food ‘tasted better’ (P = 0.04). Premeal appetite (P = 0.05) and proportion of calories consumed as protein increased compared with placebo (P = 0.008). THC-treated patients reported increased quality of sleep (P = 0.025) and relaxation (P = 0.045). QOL scores and total caloric intake were improved in both THC and placebo groups.

Conclusions: THC may be useful in the palliation of chemosensory alterations and to improve food enjoyment for cancer patients.

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