Fish oil supplementation in the treatment of cachexia in pancreatic cancer patients

  • Todd T. Brown
  • Danielle L. Zelnik
  • Adrian S. Dobs
Review Article


Patients with pancreatic cancer often experience a loss of weight and appetite, known as the anorexia-cachexia syndrome, which is associated with decreased quality of life and reduced survival. Research into the biological mechanisms of cachexia has demonstrated that an array of inflammatory mediators and tumor-derived factors cause appetite suppression, skeletal muscle proteolysis, and lipolysis, producing an overall hypercatabolic state that contributes to loss of fat and lean body mass. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) have been shown to modulate levels of proinflammatory cytokines, hepatic acute phase proteins, eicosanoids, and tumor-derived factors in animal models of cancer and may reverse some aspects of the process of cachexia. Results of clinical trials of n-3 PUFAs in the form of fish oils have been mixed, but should encourage further investigation into dietary fish oil supplementation, including the most effective route of administration and the proper dosage to promote optimal weight maintenance and to limit side effects. Concerns about standardization and quality control should also be considered. With the current available evidence, a recommendation for the use of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in pancreatic cancer cachexia is premature.

Key Words

Cancer pancreatic cancer cachexia anorexia fish oil omega-3 fatty acids polyunsaturated fatty acids 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd T. Brown
    • 1
  • Danielle L. Zelnik
    • 1
  • Adrian S. Dobs
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Center for Complementary and Alternative MedicineJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimore

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