Capsules Trial University of Leeds
to University of Leeds Press Release
omega-3 preparation protects against bowel polyps
Thursday 18th March 10
Red snapper fish
A new preparation of an omega-3 polyunsaturated
fatty acid found naturally in fish, offers hope for
thousands of patients at risk of developing an inherited
form of bowel cancer, a new study shows.
A team of investigators, led by Professor
Mark Hull from the University of Leeds, studied patients
diagnosed with a rare inherited condition called FAP
(familial adenomatous polyposis), thought to be responsible
for about one in every 100 bowel cancers.
Scientists observed a significant reduction
in the size and number of pre-cancerous growths, known
as polyps, during a six month trial of the omega-3 preparation.
Now Professor Hull and his team say
that further research is needed to find out if this
new agent, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) could help prevent
the non-hereditary form of bowel cancer, which is the
third most common cancer in the UK, diagnosed in around
37,000 people each year.
FAP causes a large number of polyps
to form in the lining of the large bowel. Patients usually
undergo bowel surgery but remain at risk of developing
polyps and cancer in any remaining bowel so that regular
endoscopic (camera test) checks are required.
Professor Hull said: "A safe and
effective drug therapy may reduce the number of invasive
check-up procedures, which can be unpleasant and always
involve a small amount of risk.
"There is definitely a clinical
need for an effective, preventative therapy that is
both safe and well tolerated as the existing drug therapy
for FAP can be associated with an increased risk of
heart attack in older individuals," he added.
The study, funded by SLA Pharma AG,
was a collaboration between researchers at Leeds Institute
of Molecular Medicine, St James's University Hospital,
Leeds, St Mark's Hospital London, St George's Hospital,
London and Sant'Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, Bologna.
During a randomised, placebo-controlled
trial, the team observed the condition of 55 patients
over six months. Twenty eight patients were given 2
grams daily of a new highly purified formulation of
the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid EPA (called Alfa).
Researchers observed a significant reduction in the
number and size of polyps in this group, whilst the
placebo group showed an increase in polyp number and
size over the same period.
"The particular preparation of
EPA that we used delivers approximately four times as
much beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acid per day as
is derived from eating two to three portions of fish
a week. The drug is also designed to be released into
the small intestine, minimising nausea and halitosis
often associated with taking over-the-counter fish oil
supplements" said Professor Hull.
Further research is now needed to investigate
whether the new preparation is a safe and effective
treatment for the large number of patients who are found
to have asymptomatic bowel polyps and who are at increased
future risk of polyp recurrence and bowel cancer.
Around 85 per cent of people diagnosed
with bowel cancer are over the age of 60. The Department
of Health has introduced a screening programme for those
aged between 60 and 75 and older people can request
to be included through their GP.