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 Melatonin Could Help Patients on Chemotherapy 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Natural Medicine Research by . View all columns in series
Ray Sahelian One of the serious drawbacks of chemotherapy is the resultant destruction of many aspects of the immune system along with destruction of various blood cells. In experiments on rodents, it has been shown that melatonin could counteract chemotherapy-induced immune suppression. To test whether this same positive response could be replicated in humans, Dr. Lissoni and colleagues, from the Division of Radiation Oncology, S. Gerardo Hospital, in Milan, Italy, evaluated the role of melatonin given with the chemotherapy. Eighty patients were randomized to receive either the chemotherapy alone, or the chemotherapy with melatonin. Thirty-five of these patients had lung cancer, 31 had breast cancer, and 14 had various gastrointestinal tract tumors. Lung cancer patients were receiving cisplatin, the breast cancer patients were being treated with mitoxantrone, and the patients with gastrointestinal tumors were receiving 5-fluorouracil. The melatonin was given in the evening at a dose of 20 mg.

At the end of the study, patients given the melatonin had a higher number of platelets, had less weakness, and less nerve damage. Loss of hair and nausea were not influenced by the melatonin. The authors say, "This pilot study seems to suggest that the concomitant administration of the pineal hormone melatonin during chemotherapy may prevent some chemotherapy-induced side-effects, particularly myelosuppression and neuropathy."

Comments: Over the past few years a number of studies have shown that melatonin plays a positive role in the therapy of cancer patients. At this point, we don't know the ideal dose of melatonin to use with various types of cancers, nor do we know the ideal time to administer this hormone. However, there is enough evidence at this time to serious consider the nightly use of a small amount of melatonin, perhaps in the 0.5 to 3 mg range, in anyone who has cancer. However, this should be done under the guidance of health care practitioner.

Lissoni P, Tancini G, Barni S, Paolorossi F, Ardizzoia A, Conti A, Maestroni G. Treatment of cancer chemotherapy-induced toxicity with the pineal hormone melatonin. Support Care Cancer, March, 5:126-9, 1997.

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 About The Author
Ray Sahelian, M.D., is a popular and respected physician who has been seen on numerous television programs including NBC Today, Dateline NBC, and CNN, and quoted by countless major magazines such as Newsweek He......moreRay Sahelian MD
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