Most of us have not forgotten the thalidomide tragedy thalidomide in the 1950s and 1960s. This drug was given for treatment of morning sickness to pregnant mothers and resulted in seal like babies ( shortened limbs). Now, doctors see a new future use for the infamous medication: helping cancer patients maintain their weight.
The effects of this drug were studied in pancreatic cancer patients and was seen to help weight loss in cancer patients who ultimately succumb to the effects of severe weight loss by the disease. This drug has also showed similar positive effects in AIDS and tuberculosis patients.
The study involved 50 patients who were terminally ill with the disease and had already lost at least 10 percent of their body weight. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive the drug or a placebo for up to 24 weeks.
At the end of one-month, patients taking the drug had gained an average of 0.37 kilograms while those on the placebo lost an average of 2.21 kilograms. After eight weeks of treatment, patients on thalidomide had lost about 0.06 kilograms compared to 3.62 kilograms in the placebo group. Those taking the drug also had better results on tests to measure arm muscle bulk. Few side effects were seen in patients taking thalidomide.
Overall survival did not differ between the two groups, but it is believed these findings suggest thalidomide holds promise as a treatment for severe weight loss that is common in cancer patients.A number of additional studies might be required before combination of thalidomide with nutritional supplements and pharmacological agents can be used .
It has also been agreed that the drug deserves a second look as a cancer treatment.