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Cannabis May Improve Appetite in Cancer Patients

Active ingredient linked to increased sense of taste, improved appetite

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Ingestion of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, appears to improve sense of taste and increase appetite in cancer patients with chemosensory alterations, according to the results of a pilot trial published online Feb. 22 in the Annals of Oncology.

Tristin D. Brisbois, Ph.D., of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues randomized 46 advanced cancer patients with chemosensory alterations and poor appetite to THC or placebo for 18 days to determine if THC can improve taste, sense of smell, appetite, caloric intake, and quality of life in this patient population.

The researchers found that, of the 21 patients who completed the trial, those who received THC capsules reported improved and enhanced chemosensory perception and said food tasted better (compared with those in the placebo group). The treatment group also consumed more calories as protein, and experienced better sleep and relaxation. Both groups reported increased total caloric intake and improved quality of life. Premeal appetite also increased in the THC group compared with the placebo group (P = 0.05).

"THC may be useful in the palliation of chemosensory alterations and to improve food enjoyment for cancer patients," the authors write.

Solvay Pharma Inc. provided the drug, placebo, and third-party monitor for the study.

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