Yorkshire Patients to be Recruited for Omega-3 Bowel Cancer Trial

01 May 2018

Bowel cancer patients in Yorkshire will soon have the chance to take part in a major clinical trial funded with a £1.5m investment by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

The trial will aim to find out if taking an omega-3 fatty acid naturally found in fish called EPA can help prevent bowel cancer from coming back after surgery.

450 patients undergoing surgery for bowel cancer that has spread to the liver, recruited from multiple sites across the UK, will take part in the study.

The trial, led by Professor Mark Hull at Leeds University’s Institute of Biomedical & Clinical Sciences, St James’s University Hospital, is already open in Basingstoke and Southampton, Hampshire, and is expected to open in Leeds and Sheffield imminently.

Those recruited will be given a high dose of a highly purified form of EPA to see if long-term treatment improves survival. Some participants will be given dummy capsules, known as placebos, with no active ingredient in order to accurately compare the effect of the EPA. 

The EPA formulation, known as icosapent ethyl and marketed as Vascepa® in the United States, and the placebo, have been donated free of charge by Amarin Pharma Inc.

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 use of EPA therapy, which is safe and well-tolerated, in the clinic.

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

Using medicines to prevent cancer, a strategy called ‘chemoprevention’ or ‘therapeutic cancer prevention’, is a rapidly emerging way of reducing disease development. 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 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. It could lead to rapid introduction into the clinic.”

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “This is a cheap and potentially powerful new way to help treat bowel cancer which, if successful, could have a huge impact. It is vital that we continue to secure more funding for these kinds of studies in Yorkshire.

“As well as having a potential impact on treatment, the trial will provide an opportunity for patients across Yorkshire to take part in a pioneering study. It is well proven that patients do better in a research-rich environment. 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.”

To keep up-to-date with the trial’s progress, please follow @EMT2trial on Twitter.



Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: nikki@ycr.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  • Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
  • We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
  • Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
  • Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
  • We aim to:
    • Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
    • Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
    • Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
    • Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
    • Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
  • For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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