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

Todd T. Brown, Danielle L. Zelnik, Adrian S. Dobs

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Oct 7 2004


  • Anorexia
  • Cachexia
  • Cancer
  • Fish oil
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology


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