Adding omega-3 fatty acids to antitumor medications may improve treatment response and quality of life for cancer patients. This new study was published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (2015; doi:10.1177/0148607115595221).

This study, conducted by researchers at the University Hospitals of Leicester in the United Kingdom, examined 50 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

Patients were given 1,000 mg of gemcitabine weekly followed by up to 100 grams of a lipid emulsion rich in omega-3 fatty acids for 3 weeks followed by a rest week. This was continued for up to six cycles, progression, unacceptable toxicity, patient request, or death.

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The study found evidence of activity in response and disease stabilization rates, reduction in liver metastasis volume, and improved quality of life scores in this group of patients. The response rate was 14.3%, and the disease control rate was 85.7%. Overall survival was 5.9 months, and progression-free survival was 4.8 months.

More than half of the patients had a greater than 10% increase in quality-of-life scores, generic symptom scores, and disease-specific domains.

Although this is the first study to use omega-3 fatty acids with a chemotherapy agent in a cancer setting, the researchers believe the results are encouraging enough to warrant further investigation in a randomized phase III trial. They stated that marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids may reduce circulating proangiogenic and proinflammatory factors.