Methylphenidate, the generic name for the drug, Ritalin, has been
studied as therapy for mitigating the fatigue experienced by cancer
patients as a result of the disease itself, as well as
fatigue-inducing treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.
I identified a number of studies relevant to this topic, and have
summarized them below. In general, methylphenidate seems to have a
positive effect, with few reports of negative side-effects. In
adition to reducing fatigue, it has also been used to treat
depression. However, the studies thus far have been fairly
Note that several study descriptions include the email addresses of
the doctors who conducted the study.
At the end of the list, I've provided instructions for viewing the
full study abstracts, and would strongly suggest you have a look at
them. I've also included the details of the search methods I used to
locate these studies, in case you want to conduct searches of your own
for additional information.
If anything here is unclear, just let me know by posting a Request for
Clarification, and I'll be happy to assist you further.
I wish you all the best.
J Clin Oncol. 2003 Dec 1;21(23):4439-43.
Patient-controlled methylphenidate for the management of fatigue in patients
with advanced cancer: a preliminary report.
Bruera E, Driver L, Barnes EA, Willey J, Shen L, Palmer JL, Escalante C.
Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, The University of
Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Unit 8, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX
77030, USA. email@example.com
PURPOSE: To assess the effects of patient-controlled methylphenidate for
RESULTS:...Anxiety, appetite, pain, nausea, depression,
and drowsiness all improved significantly...All
patients chose to continue taking methylphenidate after 7 days of treatment. No
serious side effects were reported.
CONCLUSION: These preliminary results suggest that patient-controlled
methylphenidate administration rapidly improved
fatigue and other symptoms. Randomized controlled trials are justified.
Oncol Nurs Forum. 2002 Aug;29(7):E85-90.
Interferon-induced fatigue in patients with melanoma: a pilot study of exercise
Schwartz AL, Thompson JA, Masood N.
Department of Primary Care, School of Nursing, Oregon Health and Science
University, Portland, OR, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To examine the effect of exercise and methylphenidate on
fatigue, functional ability, and cognitive function in patients with melanoma.
FINDINGS: ...66% adhered to exercise and methylphenidate; all
adhered to exercise. Fatigue was lower for the exercise and methylphenidate
group than historic controls. Functional ability increased 6% for all patients
and 9% for the exercise and methylphenidate group. Cognitive function was stable
for the exercise and methylphenidate group. The exercise-only group showed
marked cognitive slowing...
CONCLUSION: The combination of aerobic exercise and methylphenidate
may have a positive effect on fatigue, cognitive function, and
functional ability. A larger sample size and randomized trial is
needed to more
rigorously evaluate the results of exercise and methylphenidate alone or in
Palliat Med. 2002 May;16(3):261-3.
Efficacy of methylphenidate for fatigue in advanced cancer patients: a
Sugawara Y, Akechi T, Shima Y, Okuyama T, Akizuki N, Nakano T, Uchitomi Y.
Psycho-Oncology Division, National Cancer Research Institute East, Kashiwa,
Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2000 Nov-Dec;17(6):393-8.
Methylphenidate for depression in hospice practice: a case series.
Homsi J, Walsh D, Nelson KA, LeGrand S, Davis M.
The Harry R. Horvitz Center for Palliative Medicine, The Cleveland Clinic
Taussig Cancer Center, Ohio, USA.
Psychostimulants such as methylphenidate have been used for depression in cancer
patients. We report the successful use of methylphenidate to treat depression in
10 consecutive patients with advanced cancer. A rapid onset of effect was noted.
Appetite, concentration, fatigue, and sedation also improved in some persons. No
severe side effects were noted.
Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2001 Nov-Dec;18(6):403-7.
A phase II study of methylphenidate for depression in advanced cancer.
Homsi J, Nelson KA, Sarhill N, Rybicki L, LeGrand SB, Davis MP, Walsh D.
Center for Palliative Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center, Ohio,
This study evaluated the use of methylphenidate for depression in advanced
cancer...Methylphenidate was stopped for six patients because of side
effects and five were not evaluable; 21 responded to 10 mg/day on day
3; the other nine responded to 20 mg/day on day 5, 29 maintained their
positive response through day 7. Anorexia, fatigue, concentration, and
sedation also improved in some. All who completed the study had tolerable side
effects, none of which caused treatment to stop.
Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2001 May-Jun;18(3):187-92.
Methylphenidate for fatigue in advanced cancer: a prospective open-label pilot
Sarhill N, Walsh D, Nelson KA, Homsi J, LeGrand S, Davis MP.
Harry R. Horvitz Center for Palliative Medicine, World Health Organization
Demonstration Project in Palliative Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer
Center, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
Psychostimulants such as methylphenidate are used for fatigue in cancer
patients. We report a prospective...pilot study of the successful use
of methylphenidate to treat fatigue in nine of 11 consecutive patients with
advanced cancer. Seven had received radiation or chemotherapy, a median of three
weeks (range from one to 30 weeks) prior to methylphenidate. A rapid onset of
benefit was noted, even in the presence of mild anemia. Sedation and pain also
improved in some. Only one patient had side effects severe enough to stop the
[No abstract was provided with this study]
Am J Nurs. 1988 Jan;88(1):99-100.
Overwhelming fatigue in advanced cancer.
Bruera E, MacDonald RN.
Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
[No abstract was provided with this study]
Act Nerv Super (Praha). 1972;14(1):24-30.
[Role of fatigue in depressive states; its modification by the action of a
[Article in French]
Sutter JM, Debrie ML, Luccioni H, Scotto JC, Begarra R.
The article abstracts were identified by searching the wonderful
medical database operated by the National Institutes of Health, and
known as PubMed. You can find the main Pubmed search page here:
I conducted a search on the terms:
[ritalin fatigue chemotherapy]
The full list of the results (which includes the complete abstracts
for the above-listed articles, as well as a number of other articles
that were less relevant) can be reproduced by conducting the same
search at the PubMed site.
Again, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let me know.