A new clinical trial is undergoing to test the efficacy of omega-3 capsules in patients who have bowel cancer which has spread to the liver, to find out if it can prevent the liver cancer returning after surgery. The trial is led by the researchers from the University of Leeds.
Initial results showed that providing patients with 2g per day of the omega-3, called EPA, for around a month prior to surgery led to a 30 percent increase in survival after 18 months.
Based on the positive outcome of the small trial the researchers have planned to launch a larger clinical trial, recruiting 450 patients who are undergoing surgery for bowel cancer which has spread to the liver, known as secondary liver cancer. The first Leeds patient has recently been recruited to the trial in Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The trial is investigating whether a highly purified form of the omega-3 EPA could be an effective way to stop cancer returning after surgery.
Professor Hull, the lead author of the trial said,” Secondary liver cancer is the leading cause of death for patients with bowel cancer, as cancer spreads from the bowels to the liver, so it is vitally important that we improve our ability to stop the secondary liver spread. He added, “After undergoing surgery to remove the secondary liver cancer, 50 to 75 percent of patients develop a recurrence of the disease after two years, so we are investigating an intervention that may help stop cancer returning.
“Given the minimal side-effects of omega-3 capsules and how relatively cost-effective they are compared with other more expensive anti-cancer treatments, this intervention could one day be used widely to improve survival from advanced bowel cancer.”
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with more than 41,000 new cases diagnosed every year and more than half of patients with the disease experience recurrence especially the liver or lungs, which is known as secondary, advanced or metastatic bowel cancer.
Dr. Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research which is funding the trial, said: “This is a cheap and potentially powerful new way to help treat bowel cancer that, if successful, could have a huge impact.
“As well as having a potential impact on treatment, the trial will provide an opportunity for patients to take part in a pioneering study. It is well proven that patients do better in a research-rich environment.”
Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in fish oils. Previous researchers have shown that omega-3 fatty acid like EPA and DHA are strongly linked to improved cardiovascular health while lower levels in the blood are linked to increased rates of hypertension and risk of heart attack.
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