Improved quality of life with megestrol acetate in patients with endocrine-insensitive advanced cancer: A randomised placebo-controlled trial

Australasian Megestrol Acetate Cooperative Study Group, E. Beller, M. Tattersall, T. Lumley, J. Levi, D. Dalley, I. Olver, J. Page, E. Abdi, M. Friedlander, H. Wheeler, S. Margrie, R. J. Simes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)



To investigate the effect of two doses of megestrol acetate (MA) compared with placebo on quality of life (QoL) and nutritional status (NS) in patients with advanced endocrine-insensitive cancer. 

Patients and methods: Two hundred forty patients were randomised to double-blind MA 480 mg/day, MA 160 mg/day, or matching placebo for 12 weeks. Nutritional status (including weight, skinfold thickness and midarm circumference) and QoL (using 6 linear analogue self-assessment (LASA) scales) were assessed at randomisation and after four, eight and 12 weeks. A QoL ranking incorporating QoL and death was also used ranging from 1 = dead to 5 = much better QoL. 


One hundred seventy-four patients were assessable at week four, 136 at week eight and 103 patients at week 12. Patients receiving MA reported substantially better appetite (P = 0.001), mood (P = 0.001) and overall quality of life (P < 0.001), and possibly less nausea and vomiting (P = 0.08) than patients receiving placebo, based on a test for trend. A larger benefit was seen with the higher dose which (unlike the lower dose) was significantly better in pairwise comparisons with placebo for appetite, mood and overall QoL (each P ≤ 0.001). Despite some missing data on QoL scores, QoL ranking was available on 227 (95%) of patients with significantly higher QoL ranking associated with MA (P = 0.002). Improvements in QoL occurred early within four weeks and were sustained. No statistically significant differences were observed in NS measurements, including weight (P = 0.29). Side effects of therapy were minor and did not differ significantly across treatments. 


Megestrol acetate given at 480 mg/day is useful palliation in patients with endocrine-insensitive advanced cancer. It improves appetite, mood and overall quality of life in these patients, although not through a direct effect on nutritional status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-283
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1997
Externally publishedYes


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