Improved Antioxidant Status by Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy: A Case Series

Prakash Mansara; Mrunal Ketkar; Rashmi Deshpande; Amol Chaudhary; Kavita Shinde; Ruchika Kaul-Ghanekar


J Med Case Reports. 2015;9(148) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Introduction: Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide and the third most common cancer in India. Various studies have reported that chemotherapy reduces the antioxidant status in patients with cancer. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to offer protection against breast cancer through various mechanisms. However, there are no reports suggesting a relationship between consumption of omega-3 fatty acids during chemotherapy and antioxidant status in patients with breast cancer. Thus, the objective of this study was to evaluate whether fish oil supplementation could improve the antioxidant status of five women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy.

Case presentation: We report on the cases of five Indian women with breast cancer, in the age group of 34 to 60 years, who had poorly differentiated breast carcinoma and underwent modified radical mastectomy. Postsurgery, the patients were given fish oil capsules containing eicosapentaenoic acid (180mg) and docosahexaenoic acid (120mg)/capsule during their chemotherapy. Informed consent was obtained from each participant and they were followed-up to the completion of six chemotherapy cycles at 21-day intervals.

Conclusions: The supplementation of fish oil significantly (p < 0.01) increased superoxide dismutases, glutathione reductase and catalase activity in red blood cells as well as the total plasma antioxidant status in the patients. This approach of using omega-3 fatty acids as an adjuvant treatment for breast cancer may help oncologists to manage the side effects of ongoing chemotherapy by improving the antioxidant status in patients.


Breast cancer is the third most common cancer in Indian women, followed by cervical and stomach cancers.[1] The role of nutrition in the prevention of cancer has been recently established based on the available epidemiological data. Dietary agents have been shown to suppress the transformative, hyperproliferative and inflammatory processes that initiate carcinogenesis.[2]

Dietary fatty acids have been shown to play an important role not only in normal growth and development but also in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.[3,4] Various studies have reported the anti-cancer activity of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), usually found in cold water fish. Clinical studies have shown that these fatty acids benefitted patients with cancer by; increasing their response to chemotherapy; lowering the side effects of chemotherapy; increasing survival; improving quality of life (QoL); reducing hospital stay and severity of postoperative infections; and improving appetite, body weight, nutrition and clinical performance parameters such as liver and pancreas function.[4–7] EPA and DHA have been reported to improve the therapeutic index of chemotherapeutic drugs such as anthracyclines, purine and pyrimidine analogues, alkylating agents, cisplatin and vinca alkaloids by either increasing their efficacy and/or reducing their toxicity in different cancers, including breast cancer.[5,8] However, to date the effect of the consumption of fish oil (FO) by patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy on their antioxidant status has not been explored.