Omega-3 Fatty Acids for the Control of Breast Cancer Medicine–Induced Musculoskeletal Pain

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.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Reference: Published online before print May 4, 2015, doi: 10.1200/JCO.2014.59.5595 JCO May 4, 2015 JCO.2014.59.5595                                   


Published by


Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.