Fish Oil and Chemotherapy Don't Mix!

Chemotherapy drugs made ineffective with two fatty acids

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Cancer patients often use natural substances during treatment. It's thought these things certainly can't hurt and may help. In fact, just the opposite can be true.

Dutch researchers have found that chemotherapy drugs can be inactivated by two types of fatty acids found in omega-3, omega-6 and some algae extract supplements.

"Don't take fish oil during chemotherapy!"

What researchers call PIFAs - platinum-induced fatty acids - can make cisplatin chemotherapy ineffective. Stem cells in the blood also produce these fatty acids, which may be one of the reasons chemotherapy loses its potency over time.

Cisplatin is commonly used to treat a variety of cancers including those of the lungs and ovaries.

For this study, scientists at University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands looked at the effect PIFAs had in mice and human cells. Researchers found that tumors under the skin that normally shrank with chemotherapy, stopped reacting to the drugs after the fatty acids were administered.

In addition to the stem cells in the blood producing PIFAs, they are found in commercially available supplements that contain omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids and some algae extracts.

Lead investigator Professor Emile Voest, a medical oncologist at UMC Utrecht, urges patients to not use these products while undergoing chemotherapy.

This study appears online in the September 12, 2011 issue of the journal Cancer Cell.

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Review Date: 
September 12, 2011
Last Updated:
September 12, 2011