Purpose Musculoskeletal symptoms are the most common adverse effects of aromatase inhibitors (AIs) and can result in decreased quality of life and discontinuation of therapy. Omega-3 fatty acids (O3-FAs) can be effective in decreasing arthralgia resulting from rheumatologic conditions and reducing serum triglycerides.
Patients and Methods Women with early-stage breast cancer receiving an AI who had a worst joint pain/stiffness score ≥ 5 of 10 using the Brief Pain Inventory–Short Form (BPI-SF) were randomly assigned to receive either O3-FAs 3.3 g or placebo (soybean/corn oil) daily for 24 weeks. Clinically significant change was defined as ≥ 2-point drop from baseline. Patients also completed quality-of-life (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–Endocrine Symptoms) and additional pain/stiffness assessments at baseline and weeks 6, 12, and 24. Serial fasting blood was collected for lipid analysis.
Results Compared with baseline, the mean observed BPI-SF score decreased by 1.74 points at 12 weeks and 2.22 points at 24 weeks with O3-FAs and by 1.49 and 1.81 points, respectively, with placebo. Adjusting for the baseline score, osteoarthritis, and taxane use, 12-week BPI-SF scores did not differ by arm (P = .58). Triglyceride levels decreased in patients receiving O3-FA treatment and remained the same for those receiving placebo (P = .01). No between-group differences were seen for HDL, LDL, or C-reactive protein.
Conclusion There was a substantial (> 50%) and sustained improvement in AI arthralgia for both O3-FAs and placebo but no meaningful difference between the groups.
My Take: A strong illustration of the power of a placebo. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.
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Reference: Published online before print May 4, 2015, doi: 10.1200/JCO.2014.59.5595 JCO May 4, 2015 JCO.2014.59.5595