Send to

Choose Destination
Support Care Cancer. 2019 Oct;27(10):3717-3727. doi: 10.1007/s00520-019-04907-w. Epub 2019 Jun 28.

Psychostimulants for cancer-related cognitive impairment in adult cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Author information

Oncology Division, CHU de Québec-Laval University Research Center, Quebec City, QC, Canada.
Oncology Division, CHU de Québec-Laval University Research Center, Quebec City, QC, Canada.



Cognitive impairment is recognized as a common symptom experienced by cancer survivors which impacts on quality of life (QoL) and day-to-day activities. One of the treatment options is the use of psychostimulants but the evidence supporting its use remains unclear.


To identify the level of evidence of psychostimulants' effect on the management of cognitive impairment in adult cancer survivors.


Electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, CINAHL) and reference lists of relevant reviews were searched from inception to December 2017, with no language restrictions applied. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), evaluating the effect of psychostimulants on cognitive impairment among cancer patients with no primary or secondary brain tumor or brain radiation, were included. The primary outcome was cognitive function changes, whereas secondary outcomes were adverse events (AEs) and QoL.


Six RCTs were included: three studies investigating methylphenidate and three modafinil, with a total of 244 and 146 patients, respectively. Due to important differences in methodologies between studies, a meta-analysis was assumed inappropriate for the primary outcome. A narrative synthesis was performed. One study using methylphenidate and two using modafinil demonstrated improvements in some cognitive functions as measured by objective cognitive assessment tests. Psychostimulants did not improve QoL and were not associated with more AEs.


To date, limited evidence is available to estimate the usefulness (or lack) of psychostimulants on cognitive function in this population.


Cancer; Cognitive impairment; Psychostimulants; Survivorship


Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center