Approximately 50% of postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive early stage breast cancer treated with an aromatase inhibitor (AI) develop musculoskeletal symptoms. Standard analgesics are relatively ineffective. Duloxetine is a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor with proven efficacy for treatment of multiple chronic pain states. The authors investigated the hypothesis that duloxetine is efficacious for treatment of AI-associated musculoskeletal symptoms.
The authors performed a single-arm, open-label phase 2 study of duloxetine in postmenopausal women with breast cancer who developed new or worsening pain after treatment with an AI for at least 2 weeks. Patients were treated with duloxetine for 8 weeks (30 mg for 7 days, then 60 mg daily). The primary endpoint was a 30% decrease in average pain score over 8 weeks, and secondary outcomes included change in average and worst pain, pain interference, depression, sleep quality, and hot flashes. Statistical analysis was done with t tests for paired data.
Twenty-one of 29 evaluable patients (72.4%) achieved at least a 30% decrease in average pain, and 18 of 23 patients (78.3%) who completed protocol-directed treatment continued duloxetine. The mean percentage reduction in average pain severity between baseline and 8 weeks was 60.9% (95% confidence interval [CI], 48.6%-73.1%), and in maximum pain severity it was 59.9% (95% CI, 47.0-72.7%). The most common adverse events were grade 1 or 2 fatigue, xerostomia, nausea, and headache.
Duloxetine appears to be effective and well tolerated for treatment of AI-associated musculoskeletal symptoms. Future randomized, placebo-controlled studies are warranted. Cancer 2011;. © 2011 American Cancer Society.