J Altern Complement Med. , 2021., Oct;27(10):824-831. doi: 10.1089/acm.2020.0542.

Phase II Trial of Flaxseed to Prevent Acute Complications After Chemoradiation for Lung Cancer.

Lim TL Pietrofesa RA Arguiri E et al.


Background: Thoracic radiotherapy is complicated by acute radiation-induced adverse events such as radiation pneumonitis (RP) and radiation esophagitis (RE). Based on preclinical work and a randomized pilot trial from our laboratory, this single-arm phase II trial investigated administering flaxseed as a radioprotector in patients receiving definitive chemoradiation for nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Methods: Between June 2015 and February 2018, 33 patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC with planned definitive chemoradiation were enrolled. Finely-ground Linum usitatissimum L. (Linaceae; flaxseed or linseed) in 40-g packets were provided for daily consumption in any patient-desired formulation 1 week before radiotherapy and throughout radiotherapy as tolerated. The primary outcomes were overall adverse events, with particular focus on Grade ≥3 RP, and flaxseed tolerability. Adverse events were graded according to CTCAE v4.0. Results: Of the 33 patients enrolled, 5 patients (15%) did not receive chemoradiation, 4 (12%) withdrew promptly after enrollment, 4 (12%) did not return a flaxseed consumption log, and 1 patient had irritable bowel syndrome (3%). The remaining 19 patients (57%) had chemoradiation and flaxseed ingestion with a mean completion and standard deviation of the intended flaxseed course of 62% ± 8.3%. Nine (50%) of these 19 patients reported difficulties with flaxseed consumption, citing nausea, constipation, odynophagia, or poor taste or texture. One patient (5%), with unverifiable flaxseed consumption, developed Grade 3 RP. There were no cases of Grade 2 RP. Six patients (32%) developed Grade 2 RE, but no patients developed Grade ≥3 RE. Median overall and progression-free survival were 31 and 12 months, respectively.  Conclusions: Despite the low incidence of acute radiation-induced complications reported, significant treatment-related gastrointestinal toxicities and subsequently low flaxseed tolerability inhibit accurate determination of flaxseed effect in patients receiving concurrent thoracic chemoradiation. Thus, further investigations should focus on optimizing flaxseed formulation for improved tolerability and evaluation.

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