Traver Wright, Ph.D. Research Assistant Professor Department of Health and Kinesiology Texas A&M University College Station, TX

Testosterone Improved Body Mass and QoL in Male and Female Cancer Patients Interview with:

Traver Wright, Ph.D. Research Assistant Professor Department of Health and Kinesiology Texas A&M University College Station, TX

Dr. Wright

Traver Wright, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor
Department of Health and Kinesiology
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX What is the background for this study?  

Response: Many cancer patients suffer from a loss of body mass known as cachexia which results in not only a loss of fat, but a debilitating loss of muscle mass and function. This cachexia negatively impacts patient mobility and quality of life, and can also reduce their eligibility to undergo treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.  Despite the profound negative consequences of cachexia, there are no established therapies to directly address this debilitating loss of body mass during treatment.

In this National Cancer Institute funded double-blind, placebo-controlled study we examined the effectiveness of 7 weeks of treatment with the muscle-building hormone testosterone to preserve the body condition of men and women with cervical or head and neck cancer.  Twenty-one patients received weekly injections of either placebo or testosterone.  Over the 7 weeks of treatment, patients were monitored for changes in body composition, activity level, physical ability, and questionnaires regarding quality of life and well-being. What are the main findings?

Response: Over the seven weeks of study, the change in lean mass was significantly different between the two groups.  Predictably, patients receiving placebo lost lean mass on average while those receiving testosterone gained lean mass.  In addition to maintaining a more favorable body condition, testosterone treatment was associated with maintaining daily activity levels, and improved measures of quality of life and physical ability. What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: In this study, testosterone therapy was effective at preserving overall body mass, increasing lean mass and preserving quality of life for both male and female cancer patients undergoing treatment.  While this study indicates great potential for testosterone as a therapeutic treatment for cachexia in some forms of cancer, its use may be contraindicated in the treatment of some forms of cancer (e.g. prostate cancer). What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Further studies with larger patient enrollment are warranted to assure the safety and efficacy of testosterone therapy to treat cachexia during cancer treatment. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: While testosterone is often stigmatized due to a history of illicit abuse from athletes, it shows great potential as a safe and effective therapy to improve cancer treatment in men and women with some forms of cancer.


J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2018 Jun;9(3):482-496. doi: 10.1002/jcsm.12295. Epub 2018 Apr 14.
A randomized trial of adjunct testosterone for cancer-related muscle loss in men and women.

Wright TJ1, Dillon EL1, Durham WJ1, Chamberlain A1, Randolph KM1, Danesi C1, Horstman AM1, Gilkison CR1, Willis M1, Richardson G2, Hatch SS3, Jupiter DC4, McCammon S5, Urban RJ1, Sheffield-Moore M1.

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Last Updated on July 19, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD