Objective The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has anticolorectal cancer activity in vitro and in preclinical models. The present study tested whether a novel, enteric-coated formulation of EPA, as the free fatty acid (EPA-FFA), has chemopreventative efficacy in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Methods Patients undergoing endoscopic surveillance of their retained rectum postcolectomy were randomised to EPA-FFA (SLA Pharma) 2 g daily or placebo for 6 months. The number and size of polyps in an area of mucosa defined by a tattoo were determined before and after intervention. Global rectal polyp burden was scored (−1, 0, +1) by examination of video endoscopy records. Mucosal fatty acid content was measured by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.
Results 55 patients with FAP were evaluated by an intention-to-treat analysis (EPA-FFA 28, placebo 27). Treatment with EPA-FFA for 6 months was associated with a mean 22.4% (95% CI 5.1% to 39.6%) reduction in polyp number (p=0.012) and a 29.8% (3.6% to 56.1%) decrease in the sum of polyp diameters (p=0.027). Global polyp burden worsened over 6 months in the placebo group (−0.34) unlike the EPA-FFA group (+0.09, difference 0.42 (0.10–0.75), p=0.011). EPA-FFA treatment led to a mean 2.6-fold increase in mucosal EPA levels (p=0.018 compared with placebo). EPA-FFA was well tolerated with an incidence of adverse events similar to placebo.
Conclusions EPA-FFA has chemopreventative efficacy in FAP, to a degree similar to that previously observed with selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors. EPA holds promise as a colorectal cancer chemoprevention agent with a favourable safety profile.
Clinical trial number NCT00510692.
- colorectal cancer
- eicosapentaenoic acid
- familial adenomatous polyposis
- omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid
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Funding The study was funded by SLA Pharma AG. Part of the salary of NJW was funded by SLA Pharma AG.
Competing interests Declared (the declaration can be viewed on the Gut website at http://www.gut.bmj.com/supplemental).
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Wandsworth Local Research Ethics Committee.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.