Effect of oral eicosapentaenoic acid on weight loss in patients with pancreatic cancer

Nutr Cancer. 2000;36(2):177-84. doi: 10.1207/S15327914NC3602_6.


Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has been shown to modulate aspects of the inflammatory response that may contribute to weight loss in cancer. This study aimed to evaluate the acceptability and effects of oral supplementation with high-purity EPA in weight-losing patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. Twenty-six patients were entered into the study. EPA (95% pure) was administered as free acid starting at 1 g/day; the dose was increased to 6 g/day over four weeks, and then a maintenance dose of 6 g/day was administered. Patients were assessed before EPA and at 4, 8, and 12 weeks while receiving EPA, for weight, body composition, hematologic and clinical chemistry variables, acute-phase protein response, and performance status. Overall survival was noted. Supplementation was well tolerated, with only five patients experiencing side effects possibly attributable to the EPA. Before starting EPA, all patients had been losing weight at a median rate of 2 kg/mo. In general, after EPA supplementation, weight was stable. After four weeks of EPA supplementation, patients had a median weight gain of 0.5 kg (p = 0.0009 vs. rate of weight loss at baseline), and this stabilization of weight persisted over the 12-week study period. Total body water as a percentage of body weight remained stable, as did the proportion of patients with an acute-phase protein response, patients' nutritional intake, and performance status. Overall median survival from diagnosis in this study was 203 days. This study suggests that EPA is well tolerated, may stabilize weight in cachectic pancreatic cancer patients, and should be tested as an anticachectic agent in controlled trials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / complications
  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cachexia / prevention & control*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Eicosanoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Eicosanoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Eicosanoic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / complications
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Weight Loss / drug effects*


  • Eicosanoic Acids
  • Fish Oils
  • C-Reactive Protein