Study Reviews

Omega-3 can have a beneficial effect on chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis

  • 05/07/2018

One of the secondary effects of chemotherapy drugs for cancer is mucositis. Oral mucositis is probably the most common complication with chemotherapy; it appears in almost all patients who receive it and in 80% of those with head and neck cancer. Its symptoms include pain, increased risk of local and systemic infections, bleeding in the mouth and alterations to functions such as swallowing, eating, drinking and talking; all of which has a significant impact on quality of life. As well as complicating nutrition, mucositis prolongs hospital admissions and reduces the patient’s ability to tolerate treatment, negatively affecting their prognosis. Currently there are no specific drugs to treat or prevent mucositis; treatment aims to reduce its severity and duration, prevent infections and control the pain. But pharmacological treatment is also limited, due its possible adverse effects. For this reason research is being conducted to find agents that reduce mucositis with as few side effects as possible. Various studies have reported the healing effect of omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 FA) on wounds. Omega-3 FAs reduced inflammation and speed up healing of wounds caused by skin burns in both healthy and diabetic animals; they were shown to cure stomach and duodenal ulcers in a study with 21 patients; and they also had a positive effect on curing oral wounds in mouse models. Recently, results have been published from a trial assessing the efficacy and method of administration of ω-3 FA for the prevention and treatment of mucositis in 60 patients receiving chemotherapy. The subjects were assigned to two groups, 30 of whom received treatment with topical application of ω-3 FA and 30 received placebo. The results showed that the patients who received ω-3 FA orally (topically) experienced less pain and irritation in the oral cavity and throat and, therefore, also experienced an improvement to their quality of life (p = 0.01). Furthermore, no allergic or toxic responses to treatment were reported. These findings show that ω-3 FA administered topically can have an beneficial effect on chemotherapy-induced oral mucositis in cancer treatment. This could be useful in the design of new drugs that include ω-3 FA in their formulation.