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SIO Research Review

The effect of music therapy interventions on fatigue in patients with hematological cancers: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials

Sezgin and Bektas1 conducted a systematic review of 6 randomized controlled trials among 279 patients with hematological cancers receiving music therapy provided by board-certified music therapists. Articles included those published between 2003 and 2020 that met the following criteria: 1) the study was conducted with individuals who were aged 18 or older diagnosed with at least one type of hematological cancer who were experiencing fatigue symptoms associated with the hematological cancer; 2) the study used any kind of music therapy intervention; 3) the study compared the intervention to standard care or a control group with no intervention; 4) the study examined the symptoms of fatigue as a primary or secondary outcome; and 5) the study was a randomized controlled trial published only in English. The authors noted the considerable heterogeneity in outcome measures, which included the Profile of Mood States (POMS), Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy (FACIT-F), the Visual Analog Scale for Fatigue (VAS-F), and the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI). This points to the need for standardization in assessing patient-reported outcomes of fatigue in future music therapy studies.

All studies applied receptive music listening interventions, which may not be as effective for addressing fatigue according to recent data from Atkinson and colleauges.2 The authors note the importance of music therapy (as distinct from other music interventions provided by healthcare professionals who are not board-certified music therapists) in the discussion, “A review of the studies suggests that it is appropriate that music interventions, counseling, and/or training are best provided by a board-certified music therapist trained in a patient relationship.” The authors found that music therapy interventions applied to patients with hematological cancers were effective in reducing the severity of fatigue (95% Cl = 0.10 – 0.57; Hedge’s g = 0.03; p = 0.006). However, the size of the effect was small (d ≤ 0.20) and limited by small sample sizes in several of the studies. This study adds to a growing series of meta-analyses supporting the efficacy of music therapy for addressing various symptoms among patients with cancer.


1. Sezgin MG, Bektas H. The effect of music therapy interventions on fatigue in patients with hematological cancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Support Care Cancer. 2022;30(11):8733-44. Epub 20220611. doi: 10.1007/s00520-022-07198-w. PubMed PMID: 35689676.

2. Atkinson TM, Liou KT, Borten MA, Li QS, Popkin K, Webb A, DeRito J, Lynch KA, Mao JJ. Association Between Music Therapy Techniques and Patient-Reported Moderate to Severe Fatigue in Hospitalized Adults With Cancer. JCO Oncol Pract. 2020;16(12):e1553-e7. Epub 20200708. doi: 10.1200/OP.20.00096. PubMed PMID: 32639926; PMCID: PMC7735038.

Eugene Ahn

Breast medical oncologist and integrative oncologist at City of Hope Chicago SIO VP Communications Associate Professor City of Hope Director of Clinical Research at COH Chicago/Atlanta/Phoenix