Yorkshire Cancer Research to fund clinical trials of omega-3 in bowel cancer patients

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On International Clinical Trials Day (Wednesday, May 20), Yorkshire Research has announced plans for a major clinical trial to find out if taking an omega-3 fatty acid component of fish oil can prevent bowel from coming back after surgery.

The -based charity will invest £1.5m in the study, which will be led by Professor Mark Hull, Professor of Molecular Gastroenterology at the University of and Consultant Gastroenterologist at St James’s University Hospital, . It will be the first Phase III clinical trial to be funded by the charity in its 90 year history.

450 cancer patients undergoing surgery for bowel cancer that has spread to the liver will be given a highly purified form of a naturally-occurring fish oil component called EPA, or a placebo, to see if long-term treatment improves survival. Roughly 15% of all the liver surgery for bowel cancer in the UK is performed in Yorkshire, and the trial will involve patients from across the county. If successful, it could lead to an immediate use of EPA therapy in the clinic.

The study follows earlier investigations funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, which tested the effect of EPA on cancer cells in the lab. The team also conducted a small, preliminary ‘window’ trial, which suggested some survival benefit.

Using medicines to prevent cancer, a strategy called ‘chemoprevention’, is a rapidly emerging way of reducing disease development or recurrence. Using nutritional supplements like omega-3 or well-known drugs like aspirin is a promising area of research, because they are safe to use with few side effects, already well established in clinical practice and are likely to be highly cost-effective.

Professor Hull said: I am grateful to Yorkshire Cancer Research for funding this exciting clinical trial. We now have the opportunity to test whether treatment with EPA starting just before surgery actually improves outcomes after surgery such as cancer recurrence.

Results from this trial should answer the question about whether EPA, which is a safe, natural product, is beneficial to advanced bowel cancer patients and should lead to rapid introduction into the clinic.


Charles Rowett, Chief Executive Officer at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “We are extremely proud to be funding our first Phase III clinical trial. This is a highly significant development in our new strategy to drive major improvements in cancer outcomes in Yorkshire. By bringing more clinical trials to the region we will ensure patients have better access to pioneering treatments.

It is now well proven that patients do better in a research-rich environment and clinical trials are an essential part of our long-term . Taking part in trials helps patients as they get closer monitoring, more check-ups and more nursing time, and they also give patients an opportunity to feel they are contributing to helping others who might be diagnosed with cancer in the future. It is vital that we continue to secure more funding for these kinds of studies in Yorkshire.


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