Article Abstract

Plasma L-carnitine levels in terminally ill cancer patients receiving only palliative care

Authors: Akiyuki Sakamoto, Yoshiko Tsukahara, Daisuke Gomi, Toshirou Fukushima, Takashi Kobayashi, Hirohide Matsushita, Nodoka Sekiguchi, Keiko Mamiya, Tomonobu Koizumi


Background: Several studies indicated that plasma L-carnitine (LC) levels are significantly decreased during chemotherapy or chemoradiation and that LC supplementation can improve the fatigue score in some cancer patients. However, the LC levels in end-stage cancer patients treated only with palliative care remained unclear. The present study was performed to examine the plasma LC levels of terminally ill and hospitalized patients.
Methods: Twenty-one terminally ill cancer patients in our hospital, with expected survival of several months, were enrolled in the present study. Blood samples were taken for measurement of total, free, and acyl-LC. These values were compared with those in 22 chemo-naive cancer patients scheduled to receive cisplatin-containing chemotherapy as first-line therapy. We examined the relationships with body mass index, albumin and CRP levels, the presence of general fatigue, and body weight loss.
Results: Median survival in terminally ill cancer patients after enrollment was 38.5 days. Plasma concentrations of total, free, and acyl-LC in terminally ill cancer patients were 59.5±16.0, 46.1±14.2, and 13.4±5.9 µmol/L, respectively. These values were not significantly different from those in chemo-naive patients (58.3±18.1, 48.7±16.3, and 9.6±3.3 µmol/L, respectively). In addition, plasma LC levels in terminally ill patients showed no correlations with albumin or CRP values nor with other clinical parameters, such as fatigue or body weight loss.
Conclusions: The present study suggested that plasma LC levels remain normal and its deficiency is not always common even in terminally ill and hospitalized palliative cancer patients.