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Studies aim to improve quality of life for lung cancer patients

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Cleeland1.jpgBy Sandi Stromberg, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Good news for non-small cell lung cancer patients undergoing a combination of chemotherapy and radiation: If you're experiencing side effects that challenge your ability to function well in your daily life, help may be on the way.

"Patients often start off with very few or no symptoms at diagnosis," says Charles Cleeland, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Symptom Research.

"Then from chemotherapy and radiation, they develop a constellation of symptoms that we've learned are associated with very aggressive cancer therapy. These can make treatment very difficult to tolerate and negatively impact the person's ability to function during and immediately after therapy -- and even into long-term, overall survival."

For lung cancer patients, these side effects can include fatigue, pain, disturbed sleep, lack of appetite and drowsiness. Researchers want to find treatments to reduce these symptoms and understand the biological reasons they occur.

Studying how to alleviate side effects
"We know that drugs like minocycline, an antibiotic used to treat certain infections, and armodafinil, a stimulant-like drug used to treat specific sleep disorders, have the potential to help our lung cancer patients," says Zhongxing Liao, M.D., professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology.

Liao.jpgAs principal investigator on the following two studies, she and Cleeland's team hope to gain a better understanding of how these drugs might help cancer patients.

  1. A pilot study will test the potential effectiveness of combining minocycline and armodafinil to treat symptoms identified as prominent during simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation treatment for non-small cell lung cancer patients. Side effects include fatigue, pain, disturbed sleep, lack of appetite and drowsiness. If these drugs show positive response, a larger study will be initiated.
  2. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study will test the effectiveness of minocycline for treating symptoms that have been identified as prominent during simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Symptoms include fatigue, pain, disturbed sleep, lack of appetite and drowsiness. Patients in one arm of the study will receive minocycline; those in the other will receive a placebo.

What you need to know
Both studies last for several weeks and require taking the study medication at prescribed times. There will also be symptom questionnaires to complete. These can be completed with study staff over the phone or face to face in the clinic.

To learn more about enrolling in these studies, contact Zhongxing Liao, M.D., at 713-563-2300 or Araceli Garcia-Gonzalez, M.D., senior coordinator of clinical studies, at 713-792-0278.

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