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Acta Oncol. 2013 Jan;52(1):6-17. doi: 10.3109/0284186X.2012.724536. Epub 2012 Oct 1.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory treatment in cancer cachexia: a systematic literature review.

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Department of Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway.



There are no established treatments for cachexia. Recently it has been suggested that the evidence for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) treatment is sufficient to support its regular clinical use. Primary objective in this systematic review was to assess efficacy and safety of NSAID treatment in improving body weight and muscle mass in patients with cancer cachexia. Secondary objectives were to assess whether this treatment could improve other cachexia domains such as anorexia and food intake, catabolic drive and function.


A systematic literature review of PubMed, EMBASE and Cochrane Central register of controlled trials database was carried out using both text words and MeSH/EMTREE terms.


Thirteen studies were included; all but two trials showed either improvement or stabilization in weight or lean body mass. Seven studies were without a comparator. Studies are generally small and a few are methodologically flawed, often due to multiple outcomes with excess risk of false positives.


NSAIDs may improve weight in cancer patients with cachexia, and there is some evidence on effect on physical performance, self-reported quality of life and inflammatory parameters. Evidence is too frail to recommend NSAID for cachexia outside clinical trials. This is supported by the known side effects of NSAIDs, even though the reviewed literature report almost negligible toxicity.

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