A disease-specific enteral nutrition formula improves nutritional status and functional performance in patients with head and neck and esophageal cancer undergoing chemoradiotherapy: results of a randomized, controlled, multicenter trial

Cancer. 2013 Sep 15;119(18):3343-53. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28197. Epub 2013 Jun 13.


Background: In patients with head and neck and esophageal tumors, nutritional status may deteriorate during concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CRT). The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of enteral nutrition enriched with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on body composition and nutritional and functional status.

Methods: In a controlled, randomized, prospective, double-blind, multicenter study, 111 patients with head and neck and esophageal cancer undergoing concurrent CRT received either an enteral standard nutrition (control group) or disease-specific enteral nutrition Supportan®-containing EPA+DHA (experimental group) via percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy. The primary endpoint was the change of body cell mass (BCM) following CRT at weeks 7 and 14 compared with the baseline value. Secondary endpoints were additional parameters of body composition, anthropometric parameters, and nutritional and functional status.

Results: The primary endpoint of the study, improvement in BCM, reached borderline statistical significance. Following CRT, patients with experimental nutrition lost only 0.82 ± 0.64 kg of BCM compared with 2.82 ± 0.77 kg in the control group (P = .055). The objectively measured nutritional parameters, such as body weight and fat-free mass, showed a tendency toward improvement, but the differences were not significant. The subjective parameters, in particular the Kondrup score (P = .0165) and the subjective global assessment score (P = .0065) after follow-up improved significantly in the experimental group, compared with the control group. Both enteral regimens were safe and well tolerated.

Conclusion: Enteral nutrition with EPA and DHA may be advantageous in patients with head and neck or esophageal cancer by improving parameters of nutritional and functional status during CRT.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01025167.

Keywords: concurrent chemoradiotherapy; docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; esophageal cancer; head and neck cancer; nutritional status; nutritional therapy; supportive care.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Enteral Nutrition / methods*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Female
  • Food, Formulated
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01025167