The addition of intravenous omega-3 fatty acids to anti-tumor medications for pancreatic cancer may improve the quality of life (QOL) and clinical response, according to researchers from the University Hospitals of Leicester, UK. The authors report that the first clinical trial of intravenous (IV) omega-3 FAs as a therapeutic agent in any cancer setting was very encouraging. The results warrant further study in large-scale randomized trials.
Patients were given 1,000 mg of gemcitabine weekly followed by up to 100 g of omega-3 lipid emulsion for three weeks followed by a rest week. This was continued for up to six cycles, progression, unacceptable toxicity, patient request, or death. The study found evidence of activity in response and disease stabilization rates, reduction in liver metastasis volume, and improved quality of liver scores in this group of patients.
The primary outcome measure was objective response rate, with secondary outcome measures of overall and progression free survival, QOL scores, and adverse events. QOL and pain scores appear to be improved by the combination of gemcitabine and IV omega 3 rich lipid infusion over baseline. Perhaps the most striking results are those of the proportion of patients with a 10% or better improvement in global health from baseline.
This study shows that the combination of IV omega-3 lipid emulsion and gemcitabine is safe and feasible and may have clinical activity in patient with APC [advanced pancreatic cancer].
Most patients are ordered to stop omega-3 fatty acids supplements prior to any medical procedure because of the mild blood thinning effects. I have always felt these concerns were overstated. The blood thinning effects of one baby aspirin are much greater than those of several pearls of fish oil.
The dosage given via IV is of concern to me. A typical pearl of fish oil contains 1000 mg or 1 g or omega-3 fatty acids. In this study they used up to 100 times that amount. I will use up to 6 or even 8 g of omega-3 fatty acids orally per day to combat acute inflammation. However, that dosage is usually reserved for very large patients. Maintenance dose for omega-3 fatty acids is about 2 g per day.
I like the fact that they used an omega-3 emulsion and not just EPA and DHA. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two most studied of the omega-3 fatty acids. Too often medical research tries to isolate the one organic compound in a food or herb that is responsible for its health benefits. However, most of the time it is a combination of organic chemicals rather than one specific substance. This is very true of the omega-3 fatty acids. While the human body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, it can convert one form, like linolenic acid, into another, DHA or EPA.
The Bottom Line:
We need more research into the benefits of combining nutritional supplements with traditional medications. Yes, there are some contraindications but I suspect there is much more benefit to be uncovered.
Source: July 30, 2015 Today’s Practitioner