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Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Versus Omega-6 Fatty Acids for the Control of Cancer-Related Fatigue Among Breast Cancer Survivors. JNCI Cancer Spectr 2019 Jun;3(2):pkz005



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Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85073528138 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   12 Citations


BACKGROUND: Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a common side effect of adjuvant therapy and becomes a chronic problem for approximately one-third of survivors. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (O3-PUFA) demonstrated preliminary antifatigue effects in previous research, but have not been investigated in fatigued cancer survivors.

METHODS: Breast cancer survivors 4-36 months posttreatment with a CRF score of 4 or more of 10 using the symptom inventory (SI) were randomly assigned to O3-PUFA (fish oil, 6 g/d), omega-6 PUFA (O6-PUFA; soybean oil, 6 g/d), or a low-dose combination of O3-/O6-PUFA (3 g/d O3-PUFA and O6-PUFA) for 6 weeks. CRF was assessed by the SI (screening question), the Brief Fatigue Inventory, and the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Index. Protein and mRNA levels of inflammatory and antioxidant biomarkers, along with fatty acid and lipid levels, were assessed at baseline and week 6. Statistical tests were two-sided.

RESULTS: A total of 108 breast cancer survivors consented; 97 subjects were randomly assigned and 81 completed the trial. The SI CRF score decreased by 2.51 points at week 6 with O6-PUFA and by 0.93 points with O3-PUFA, with statistically significant between-group difference (effect size = -0.86, P < .01). Similar changes were observed for the Brief Fatigue Inventory and Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Index but were not statistically significant. Stratified analyses showed the largest benefit was observed in those with severe baseline CRF (≥7). Compared with O3-PUFA, O6-PUFA supplementation statistically significantly decreased proinflammatory markers in the TNF-α signaling pathway.

CONCLUSION: Contrary to our original hypothesis, O6-PUFA statistically significantly reduced CRF compared with O3-PUFA. Further research is needed to confirm these findings and to elucidate mechanisms of action.

Author List

Peppone LJ, Inglis JE, Mustian KM, Heckler CE, Padula GDA, Mohile SG, Kamen CS, Culakova E, Lin PJ, Kerns SL, Cole S, Janelsins MC


Sarah L. Kerns PhD Associate Professor in the Radiation Oncology department at Medical College of Wisconsin