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Fish oils may block cancer drugs

13th September 2011

Researchers in the Netherlands have warned that fish oil supplements could stop chemotherapy from working for cancer patients.

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They say that the fats found in fish oil can lead to cancer tumours becoming immune to treatment, and advise that cancer patients should avoid taking them.

The study, published in the journal Cancer Cell, can interfere with chemotherapy drugs.

Cancer experts said patients should check with their doctors whether or not the findings applied to them.

The Dutch research team set out to discover how tumours develop resistance to current treatments.

They found in tests on mice that two sorts of fatty acids, which are also made by stem cells in the human body in response to the cancer drug cisplatin, helped cancer tumours to develop resistance to chemotherapy.

Additional drugs can be used to prevent this from happening and boost the chances of a successful chemotherapy.

But because the two fatty acids, known as KHT and 16:4(n-3), were also found in fish oil supplements, they advised patients to avoid taking them.

Lead researcher Emile Voest of the University Medical Centre in Utrecht said that the body itself secrets protective substances which can impede the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

The same substances were abundantly found in commercially available fish oil, which should be avoided during chemotherapy, Voest said.

According to health information manager Jessica Harris, of Cancer Research UK, the study showed one possible method of preventing resistance to chemotherapy.

But she said further research would be needed to develop ways to stop resistance.

She said fish oil supplements could cause problems, and advised cancer patients to discuss the matter with their doctors.


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