New study: anti-leukemia drug Dexamethasone

According to a new study from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital The anti-leukemia drug Dexamethasone contributes to a relentless fatigue and poor quality of sleep in children undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The finding suggests that clinicians could improve the quality of life for these children by developing new methods of drug administration that reduce or eliminate these side effects.

The St. Jude team showed that dexamethasone significantly increased patients’ fatigue, length of daytime naps, frequency of awakening at night and the amount of restlessness during sleep. The findings also suggest that before initiation of continuation therapy for ALL, health care workers should prepare patients and families to expect an increase in disrupted sleep and fatigue during dexamethasone treatment. Continuation therapy is the long-term treatment that occurs following the initial intensive use of anti-cancer drugs designed to quickly reduce the number of cancer cells.

Previous studies had found that dexamethasone was especially effective in the treatment of ALL, but that it could also cause a variety of side effects in children, including fatigue. Therefore, the St. Jude team designed the current study to determine if the direct and consistent link between dexamenthasone and fatigue and disrupted sleep in children was significant and common.