The effect of an oral nutritional supplement enriched with fish oil on weight-loss in patients with pancreatic cancer

Br J Cancer. 1999 Sep;81(1):80-6. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6690654.


Previous studies have suggested that administration of oral eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) will stabilize weight in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. The aim of the present study was to determine if a combination of EPA with a conventional oral nutritional supplement could produce weight gain in these patients. Twenty patients with unresectable pancreatic adenocarcinoma were asked to consume two cans of a fish oil-enriched nutritional supplement per day in addition to their normal food intake. Each can contained 310 kcal, 16.1 g protein and 1.09 g EPA. Patients were assessed for weight, body composition, dietary intake, resting energy expenditure (REE) and performance status. Patients consumed a median of 1.9 cans day(-1). All patients were losing weight at baseline at a median rate of 2.9 kg month(-1). After administration of the fish oil-enriched supplement, patients had significant weight-gain at both 3 (median 1 kg, P= 0.024) and 7 weeks (median 2 kg, P = 0.033). Dietary intake increased significantly by almost 400 kcal day(-1) (P = 0.002). REE per kg body weight and per kg lean body mass fell significantly. Performance status and appetite were significantly improved at 3 weeks. In contrast to previous studies of oral conventional nutritional supplements in weight-losing cancer patients, this study suggests that an EPA-enriched supplement may reverse cachexia in advanced pancreatic cancer.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diet therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Dietary Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Weight Loss / drug effects*


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Fish Oils
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid