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Endeavour researcher finds Vitamins Bs may be of benefit in reducing chemotherapy side effects

4 October 2016

Research paper: A randomised, placebo-controlled trial assessing the efficacy of an oral B group vitamin in preventing the development of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy

Endeavour Researcher Dr Janet Schloss of the Office of Research recently published a research article on a clinical trial she undertook as part of her PhD at the School of Medicine at the University of Queensland. This trial was conducted on patients undergoing chemotherapy with drugs that cause a side effect called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).

CIPN is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes symptoms of numbness, tingling and pain in the hands and feet and negatively impacts people’s daily lives. Given the debility effects of CIPN on people’s lives, Janet’s trial investigated the benefits of a vitamin B supplement that is often used by complementary medicine practitioners in patients experiencing nervous system conditions such as CIPN.

The trial randomised 71 participants to either an oral vitamin B supplement group or a placebo (sugar pill) group. The vitamin B group had 38 participants and the placebo had 33 participants. Each participant took a capsule twice a day from the beginning of their chemotherapy treatment until three months after their chemotherapy treatment had finished. They were tested by a neurologist and had blood tests before the start of their chemotherapy, after their chemotherapy treatment was finished and three months after their chemotherapy. The participants also completed three questionnaires before chemotherapy, at three, six and nine months during their treatment. These questionnaires assessed their quality of life, pain and their own perception of CIPN.

The results of the trial found that although the blood tests and assessment by the neurologist did not show a statistically difference between the vitamin B group and placebo group on their CIPN, the participant questionnaires reported that the vitamin B group participants found that their CIPN was statistically significant indicating that the participants themselves taking the B vitamins found that their numbness and tingling was reduced compared to those in the placebo group. Vitamin B12 was also found to be statistically significant and was shown to reduce how soon CIPN presents and its severity. Although vitamin B12 showed benefit in these participants, vitamin B6 did not show any protection against CIPN.

The final results of this trial found that although vitamin B supplements did not prevent the development of CIPN in patients undergoing chemotherapy based on blood tests and assessed by a neurologist, the patients felt that the vitamin B supplement did reduce their feelings of numbness and tingling. This result will help to conduct other research trials to assess the benefit of complementary medicines in reducing chemotherapy side effects including CIPN.

Schloss, J.M., Colosimo, M., Airey, C., Masci, P., Linnane, A.W. and Vitetta, L., 2016. A randomised, placebo-controlled trial assessing the efficacy of an oral B group vitamin in preventing the development of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). Supportive Care in Cancer, pp.1-10.

Trial Number: ACTRN12611000078954 Protocol number: UH2010000749.