A recent Dutch study has been published that is creating a large media ripple and alarm concerning the use of fatty acid supplements and cancer.
The study showed that two specific fatty acids, when used in mice and in-vitro (in cells in a laboratory), can interfere with the effects of chemotherapy drugs.
These fatty acids are KHT(n-6) and 16:4(n-3), and are types of a new fatty acid group called the PIFA’s (Platinum-Induced Fatty Acids). According to this study, PIFA’s are found in some fish oil supplements (although data regarding which fish oil supplements is lacking).
The online and print media has now spread the word that fish oil supplements are bad for cancer patients.
This is problematic for several reasons. First, conventional medicine typically does not rely on a single study in mice and cells to make medical choices concerning patients. Secondly, there are abundant published benefits to fatty acid supplementation, in particular DHA, EPA and phospholipids. Finally, if conventional wisdom promoted change in medical policy based on studies of this type, there would be many, many treatments included in the standard of clinical care that are presently absent.
The reality is that our understanding of fatty acid metabolism and effects on cancers specifically is still overall limited. We have data showing benefit (multiple studies), and we are coming closer to understanding mechanisms, but overall we still are not close to a final understanding of the effects of fatty acids.
To be sure, it is worth noting that the PIFA’s interfered with chemo in this study. We should take this into account and continue to gather information so we can make sound decisions. Perhaps time will reveal that we should discontinue the use of fatty acids in every cancer patient receiving every chemotherapy drug.
But that time is not here.
To make blanket recommendations at this stage is premature, and the press’ sweeping statements concerning all chemotherapy drugs and all fatty acids is inappropriate at this juncture.
If you would like to learn more about fatty acid supplementation for your dog, check out the Guide.
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.