Omega 3, Placebo Aid Aromatase Inhibitor-Induced Pain

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For early-stage breast cancer treated with aromatase inhibitors, arthralgia is improved with omega-3 fatty acid and placebo.
For early-stage breast cancer treated with aromatase inhibitors, arthralgia is improved with omega-3 fatty acid and placebo.

For patients with early-stage breast cancer treated with aromatase inhibitors (AIs), arthralgia is improved with omega-3 fatty acid (O3-FA) treatment and with placebo, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dawn L. Hershman, M.D., from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues randomized 249 women with early-stage breast cancer receiving an AI who had a worst joint pain/stiffness score of ≥5 of 10 using the Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form (BPI-SF) to receive O3-FAs (122 patients) or placebo (127 patients) for 24 weeks.

Patients completed quality-of-life and additional pain and stiffness assessments at baseline and at weeks six, 12, and 24.

The researchers found that the mean observed BPI-SF score decreased by 1.74 and 2.22 points at 12 and 24 weeks, respectively, with O3-FAs, and by 1.49 and 1.81 points, respectively, with placebo, compared with baseline.

Twelve-week BPI-SF scores did not differ by arm (P = 0.58) after adjustment for baseline score, osteoarthritis, and taxane use.

In patients receiving O3-FA treatment, triglyceride levels decreased, while they remained stable for patients receiving placebo (P = 0.01).

RELATED: Review: Omega-3s Do Not Reduce Risk of Cardio Events

"We found no evidence that O3-FAs improved joint pain or stiffness associated with AIs any more than placebo; however, we did find a large reduction in symptoms in both the treatment and placebo groups," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries.


  1. Hershman, Dawn L., et al. "Randomized Multicenter Placebo-Controlled Trial of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for the Control of Aromatase Inhibitor–Induced Musculoskeletal Pain: SWOG S0927." Journal of Clinical Oncology. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2014.59.5595. [epub ahead of print]. May 4, 2015.

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