(HealthDay News) – Administration of synthetic ghrelin during chemotherapy improves food intake and appetite in patients with esophageal cancer, while minimizing gastrointestinal disorders, according to a study published online January 26 in Cancer.

Yuichiro Hiura, M.D., of Osaka University in Japan, and associates analyzed 42 patients with esophageal cancer in a prospective, randomized hase 2 trial to assess the effects of synthetic human ghrelin during cisplatin-based chemotherapy. Participants received intravenous infusions of synthetic human ghrelin (21 patients) or saline (21 patients) for one week. They evaluated changes in oral calorie intake as well as chemotherapy-related adverse events, appetite visual analog scale (VAS) scores, changes in gastrointestinal hormones and nutritional status, and quality of life.

The researchers found that patients who received ghrelin had significantly higher average food intake and appetite VAS scores than those in a placebo control group (18.2kcal/kg/day versus 12.7kcal/kg/day and 6.2 vs. 4.1). Fewer adverse events related to anorexia and nausea were experienced by those in the ghrelin group.

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“Short-term administration of exogenous ghrelin at the start of cisplatin-based chemotherapy stimulated food intake and minimized adverse events,” the authors write. “We believe that ghrelin administration could increase the efficiency of chemotherapy, and we recommend the use of ghrelin in clinical practice.”

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