This prescription drug is used off-label in low doses to treat people with cancer, with notable but very preliminary successes in cases where the cancers were difficult-to-treat or quite advanced.

How can low-dose naltrexone help me? What the research says

We summarize the clinical evidence for each medical benefit here. We begin with our assessment of the strength of evidence within each category, followed by a brief summary of individual studies or reviews of several studies. In assessing the strength of evidence, we consider the study design, number of participants, and the size of the treatment effect (how much outcomes changed with treatment).

Learn more about how we research and rate therapies.

Preclinical evidence is described in Are you a health professional? ›

Treating cancer

Is low-dose naltrexone linked to improved survival? Is it linked to less cancer growth or metastasis? Does it enhance the anticancer action of other treatments or therapies? We present the evidence.

Is this therapy linked to improved survival? Is it linked to less cancer growth or metastasis? Does it enhance the anticancer action of other treatments or therapies? We present the evidence.

Brain cancer

Preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of improved survival with radiotherapy among people with high-grade malignant gliomas treated with naltrexone

Naltrexone in combination with other complementary therapies

Naltrexone and alpha-lipoic acid: weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of tumor response and improved survival or reversal among people with lymphoma or pancreatic cancer treated with LDN and alpha-lipoic acid

Intravenous alpha-lipoic acid and vitamin C, low-dose naltrexone, hydroxycitrate, and a healthy lifestyle program: weak evidence of recovery from metastatic renal cell carcinoma with a combination of therapies including LDN

Lipoic acid, hydroxycitrate, and low-dose naltrexone: weak evidence of tumor response during chemotherapy among people with chemoresistant advanced metastatic cancers treated with a combination therapy including LDN

Optimizing your body terrain

Does low-dose naltrexone promote an environment within your body that is less supportive of cancer development, growth, or spread? We present the evidence.

Inflammation

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of reduced inflammation among people with conditions other than cancer treated with LDN

LDN used in combination with other complementary therapies

LDN and melatonin: preliminary evidencesignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of higher counts of white blood cells (lymphocytes) among people with untreatable metastatic solid tumors treated with LDN and melatonin

Managing side effects and promoting wellness

Is low-dose naltrexone linked to fewer or less severe side effects or symptoms? Is it linked to less toxicity from cancer treatment? Does it support your quality of life or promote general well-being? We present the evidence.

Side effects and promoting wellness not specific to cancer

Weak evidenceone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) of less pain not related to cancer among people treated with LDN

Resources related to evidence

Keep reading about low-dose naltrexone

Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
View profile

Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewers

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
View profile

Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Dan Rubin, ND, FABNO

Naturopathic oncologist
View profile

Dan Rubin, ND, FABNO, is a board certified naturopathic oncologist practicing in both Scottsdale and Flagstaff, Arizona. Dr. Rubin is the founding president of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP) and has been a long-time member of the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board. He is the co-founder of Naturopathic Specialists, LLC, with his wife, Debi Smolinski, ND. Dr. Rubin focuses on naturopathic and integrative approaches to people with cancer, treating both children and adults. He enjoys trail running in the Sonoran desert near his house.

Dan Rubin, ND, FABNO Naturopathic oncologist

Last update: May 20, 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

References[+]