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Just Ask!
An NCF Column for Inquiring Patients

By Prof. Alan Cocchetto ©2013

From Winter 2012-2013 Forum

The “Just Ask!” column is intended to act as a means for patients to inquire about issues related to the NCF’s research activities. This column is NOT intended to act as medical advice in any way, shape or form! The National CFIDS Foundation assumes no responsibilities for any action or treatment undertaken by readers. For medical advice, please consult your own personal healthcare providers.

Q: Are you aware of any treatments for radiation sickness that look to be promising in the present as well as anything looking forward?

A: Radiation sickness is complex due to several factors relating to type of exposure, dose, duration etc. The one thing that separates radiation from viruses, bacteria, etc. is the fact that most viruses or bacteria are limited in terms of the cell types and tissues that they will invade. Radiation, on the other hand, is not so limited and can affect virtually all cell types and tissues. This makes it a formidable challenge to antagonize its effects. Radiation effects usually focus on several body systems. One of the most important is the bone marrow due to the fact that radiation can adversely impact stem cells as well as other progenitor cells in the marrow. Thus radiation affects the hematopoietic system. Other systems that are adversely impacted by radiation are the vascular system and the gastrointestinal system. In order to antagonize any adverse effects, scientists must first determine the major mechanisms involved and gain true understanding (translational research) before clinical applications can occur. This is just a brief and simplistic view, of course, of a very complex medical process.

Given that, what has the NCF seen and been encouraged by? Let me explain. When cancer patients undergo radiation treatment as part of their therapy, they may go on to develop what is referred to as “cancer-related fatigue.” The NCF firmly believes that because CFIDS/ME can be caused by internal radionuclides, this radiation can therefore be associated with “cancer-related fatigue.” Although human trials have been somewhat limited, research conducted by Susan G. Komen organization has shown that Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH), in breast cancer patients who have developed “cancer-related fatigue,” do experience clinical symptom improvement when given TRH injections. Furthermore, it has been stated that “cancer-related fatigue” appears closely related to CFIDS/ME. As such, I do believe that more research should be done on the use of TRH for CFIDS/ME patients to improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, TRH is only available currently in Japan. It has not received FDA approval in the U.S.


  1. Research Grants Awarded: A pilot study of syntheticthyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) administration for the treatment of radiation therapy induced fatigue in breast cancer patients (
  2. Thyrotropin-releasing hormone as a treatment for cancer-related fatigue: a randomized controlled study; Kamath J, Feinn R, Winokur A; Support Care Cancer. 2012 Aug;20(8):1745-53.
  3. The experience of cancer-related fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome: a qualitative and comparative study; Bennett B, Goldstein D, Friedlander M, Hickie I, Lloyd A; J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007 Aug;34(2): 126-35.

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