Fangyuan Zhang

MMed, RN, Nurse, Department of Nursing, Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute &Hospital

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, IF: 2.479

The management strategies of cancer-associated anorexia: a critical appraisal of systematic reviews


Background: Cancer-related anorexia remains one of the most prevalent and troublesome clinical problems experienced by patients with cancer during and after therapy. To ensure high-quality care, systematic reviews (SRs) are seen as the best guide. Considering the methodology quality of SRs varies, we undertook a comprehensive overview, and critical appraisal of pertinent SRs.

Methods: Eight databases (between the inception of each database and September 1, 2017) were searched for SRs on the management of cancer-related anorexia. Two researchers evaluated the methodological quality of each SR by using the Revised Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews (R-AMSTAR) checklist. Characteristics of the "high quality" SRs were abstracted, included information on relevant studies numbers, study design, population, intervention, control, outcome and result.

Results: Eighteen SRs met the inclusion criteria. The R-AMSTAR scores of methodological quality ranged from 18 to 41 out of 44, with an average score of 30. Totally eight SRs scored ≥31 points, which showed high methodological quality, and would be used for data extraction to make summaries. Anamorelin had some positive effects to relieve cancer anorexia-cachexia syndrome (CACS) and improve the quality of life (QoL). Megestrol Acetate (MA) could improve appetite, and was associated with slight weight gain for CACS. Oral nutritional interventions were effective in increasing nutritional intake and improving some aspects of QoL in patients with cancer who were malnourished or at nutritional risk. The use of thalidomide, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and minerals, vitamins, proteins, or other supplements for the treatment of cachexia in cancer were uncertain, and there was inadequate evidence to recommend it to clinical practices, the same situation in Chinese Herb Medicine and acupuncture (acupuncture and related therapies were effective in improving QoL) for treating anorexia in cancer patients, warranting further RCTs in these areas.

Conclusions: Anamorelin, MA, oral nutrition interventions, and acupuncture could be considered to be applied in patients with cancer-related anorexia. Future RCTs and SRs with high quality on the pharmaceutical or non-pharmaceutical interventions of anorexia in cancer patients are warranted.

KEYWORDS: anorexia; cancer; evidence-based medicine; systematic review; meta-analysis