Corticosteroids are frequently used in cancer pain management despite limited evidence. This study compares the analgesic efficacy of corticosteroid therapy with placebo.
Patients and Methods
Adult patients with cancer receiving opioids with average pain intensity ≥ 4 (numeric rating scale [NRS], 0 to 10) in the last 24 hours were eligible. Patients were randomly assigned to methylprednisolone (MP) 16 mg twice daily or placebo (PL) for 7 days. Primary outcome was average pain intensity measured at day 7 (NRS, 0 to 10); secondary outcomes were analgesic consumption (oral morphine equivalents), fatigue and appetite loss (European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer–Quality of Life Questionnaire C30, 0 to 100), and patient satisfaction (NRS, 0 to 10).
A total of 592 patients were screened; 50 were randomly assigned, and 47 were analyzed. Baseline opioid level was 269.9 mg in the MP arm and 160.4 mg in the PL arm. At day-7 evaluation, there was no difference between the groups in pain intensity (MP, 3.60 v PL, 3.68; P = .88) or relative analgesic consumption (MP, 1.19 v PL, 1.20; P = .95). Clinically and statistically significant improvements were found in fatigue (−17 v 3 points; P .003), appetite loss (−24 v 2 points; P = .003), and patient satisfaction (5.4 v 2.0 points; P = .001) in favor of the MP compared with the PL group, respectively. There were no differences in adverse effects between the groups.
MP 32 mg daily did not provide additional analgesia in patients with cancer receiving opioids, but it improved fatigue, appetite loss, and patient satisfaction. Clinical benefit beyond a short-term effect must be examined in a future study.