Dexamethasone exacerbates cytotoxic chemotherapy induced lethargy and weight loss in female tumor free mice

John Wong, Lisa T. Tran, Kaari A. Lynch, Lisa J. Wood

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Scopus citations


    Cytotoxic chemotherapy can induce a systemic inflammatory response which has been proposed to be an underlying mechanism of cancer treatment related fatigue. Dexamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid that has potent anti-inflammatory effects, is incorporated into chemotherapy regimens to prevent chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). The purpose of this study was to determine whether by suppressing cytotoxic chemotherapy-induced inflammation, dexamethasone could ameliorate chemotherapy induced fatigue/lethargy in tumor free mice. The effect of dexamethasone (DEX) on Cytoxan-Adriamycin (CA)-induced inflammation was assessed by measuring circulating levels of IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-6, GCSF, KC, and MCP-1 twenty-four-hours post CA injection. Decline in voluntary wheel running activity (VWRA) from baseline (used as a proxy for fatigue/lethargy), body weight and composition, and food intake were monitored in mice administered four cycles of CA every two weeks with or without DEX. CA increased circulating levels of IL-6, GCSF, KC, and MCP-1 and caused a rapid decline in VWRA and body weight immediately following CA-injection. Although the acute CA-induced decline in VWRA and body weight was not evident in mice administered CA + DEX, DEX alone had a suppressive effect on VWRA, and body weight continued to decline in mice administered both CA and DEX while it returned to baseline in CA-treated mice. CA or DEX alone had no long term impact on VWRA but DEX exacerbated lethargy and weight loss in CA-treated mice. Despite dampening the systemic inflammatory response to chemotherapy, dexamethasone failed to ameliorate acute or long term chemotherapy related fatigue/lethargy. Our pre-clinical findings suggest that supportive therapies like dexamethasone used to acutely control nausea and vomiting in cancer patients may actually contribute to overall symptom burden in cancer patients.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)87-96
    Number of pages10
    JournalCancer Biology and Therapy
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


    • Dexamethasone
    • cancer
    • chemotherapy
    • cyclophosphamide
    • cytokines
    • doxorubicin
    • fatigue
    • lethargy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Molecular Medicine
    • Oncology
    • Pharmacology
    • Cancer Research


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