(HealthDay News) — Open-label placebo (OLP) may reduce fatigue in cancer survivors, according to a study published online in Scientific Reports.

Teri W. Hoenemeyer, PhD, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues compared OLP to treatment as usual (TAU) for cancer survivors with fatigue in a 21-day randomized controlled trial. This was followed by a 21-day study in which TAU participants received OLP and OLP participants were followed after discontinuing placebo. Seventy-four cancer survivors who completed treatment 6 months to 10 years prior to enrollment and reporting at least moderate fatigue were randomized to receive OLP or TAU.

The researchers found that participants randomized to OLP reported a 29% improvement in fatigue severity and a 39% improvement in fatigue-disrupted quality of life compared to those randomized to TAU. Reductions in fatigue of a similar magnitude were reported for TAU participants who elected to try OLP for 21 days after the main study, with reductions of 23 and 35% for fatigue severity and fatigue-disrupted quality of life, respectively.

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“OLP may reduce fatigue symptom severity and fatigue-related quality of life disruption in cancer survivors,” the authors write.

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Hoenemeyer TW, Kaptchuk TJ, Mehta TS, and Fontaine KR. Open-Label Placebo Treatment for Cancer-Related Fatigue: A Randomized-Controlled Clinical Trial. Scient Rep. 2018;8:2784. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-20993-y