PUFA from fish oil appear to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects and improve nutritional status in cancer patients. With this as background, the aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of EPA plus DHA on inflammatory condition, and oxidative and nutritional status in patients with lung cancer.

In our multicentre, randomised, double-blind trial, thirty-three patients with a diagnosis of advanced inoperable non-small-cell lung cancer and undergoing chemotherapy were divided into two groups, receiving four capsules/d containing 510 mg of EPA and 340 mg of DHA, or 850 mg of placebo, for 66 d. At the start of chemotherapy (T₀), after 8 d (T₁), 22 d (T₂) and 66 d (T₃), biochemical (inflammatory and oxidative status parameters) and anthropometric parameters were measured in both groups.

A significant increase of body weight in the n-3 group at T₃ v. T₀ was observed. Concerning inflammation, C-reactive protein and IL-6 levels differed significantly between the n-3 and placebo groups at T₃, and progressively decreased during chemotherapy in the n-3 group, evidencing n-3 PUFA anti-inflammatory action.

Concerning oxidative status, plasma reactive oxygen species levels increased in the placebo group v. the n-3 group at the later treatment times. Hydroxynonenal levels increased in the placebo group during the study, while they stabilised in the n-3 group.

Our data confirm that the continual assumption of EPA plus DHA determined an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative action which could be considered a preliminary goal in anti-cachectic therapy.