Nutritional intervention with fish oil provides a benefit over standard of care for weight and skeletal muscle mass in patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer receiving chemotherapy

Cancer. 2011 Apr 15;117(8):1775-82. doi: 10.1002/cncr.25709. Epub 2011 Feb 28.


Background: Involuntary weight loss is a major contributor to mortality and morbidity in patients with advanced cancer. Nutritional intervention with fish oil (FO)-derived eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may prevent deterioration of body composition. This study compared intervention with FO with standard of care (SOC; no intervention) with regard to weight, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue in newly referred patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer from the time of initiation to completion of first-line chemotherapy.

Methods: Forty patients completed the study; there were 16 in the FO group (dose of 2.2 g of EPA/day) and 24 patients in the SOC group. Skeletal muscle and adipose tissue were measured using computed tomography images. Blood was collected and weight was recorded at baseline and throughout chemotherapy.

Results: Patients in the SOC group experienced an average weight loss of 2.3 ± 0.9 kg whereas patients receiving FO maintained their weight (0.5 ± 1.0 kg) (P = .05). Patients with the greatest increase in plasma EPA concentration after FO supplementation were found to have the greatest gains in muscle (r(2) = 0.55; P = .01). Approximately 69% of patients in the FO group gained or maintained muscle mass. Comparatively, only 29% of patients in the SOC group maintained muscle mass, and overall the SOC group lost 1 kg of muscle. No difference in total adipose tissue was observed between the 2 groups.

Conclusions: Nutritional intervention with 2.2 g of FO per day appears to provide a benefit over SOC, resulting in the maintenance of weight and muscle mass during chemotherapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition / drug effects*
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / adverse effects
  • Fish Oils / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Nutritional Support*
  • Standard of Care


  • Fish Oils
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids