The Power of Placebo in Aromatase Inhibitor-Induced Arthralgia

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Researcher found an improvement in aromatase inhibitor–associated arthralgia in both omega-3 fatty acids and placebo treatment.
Researcher found an improvement in aromatase inhibitor–associated arthralgia in both omega-3 fatty acids and placebo treatment.

There was a substantial and sustained improvement in aromatase inhibitor–associated arthralgia with both omega-3 fatty acids and placebo, but no meaningful difference between the two, a study published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has shown.1

Arthralgias are one of the most common adverse events of aromatase inhibitors, occurring in as many as 25% of patients receiving letrozole, for instance.1,2

These musculoskeletal symptoms can reduce patients' quality of life and result in a discontinuation of therapy; however, various studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can decrease the incidence and severity of joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation.1

Therefore, researchers sought to conduct a placebo-controlled trial to evaluate whether omega-3 fatty acids can reduce pain and stiffness in women receiving adjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy for early-stage breast cancer.1

For the multicenter study, researchers enrolled 262 women with early-stage breast cancer receiving an aromatase inhibitor, such as letrozole or anastrozole, who had a worst pain/stiffness score 5 or higher on the Brief-Pain Inventory-Short Form (BPI-SF).1

Participants were randomly assigned to receive omega-3 fatty acids 3.3 g or placebo containing soybean and corn oil daily for 24 weeks.1

RELATED: Cancer Patients Should Avoid Fish, Fish Oil During Chemo, Researchers Warn

Results showed that among the 249 evaluable participants, the mean observed BPI-SF score decreased by 1.74 and 1.49 points at 12 weeks with omega-3 fatty acids and placebo, respectively. At 24 weeks, there was a reduction of 2.22 and 1.81 points, respectively, compared with baseline.1

When adjusting for confounding factors like osteoarthritis and taxane use, 12-week BPI-SF scores did not differ by treatment arm (P=0.58).1

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