According to a new study, flaxseed may play a protective role against the cardiotoxic side effects associated with drugs used to treat women with breast cancer.

Anticancer therapeutics, such as Doxorubicin and Trastuzumab, can cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which can damage the heart. Cardio-Oncology is a branch of medicine that focuses on treatments that can prevent and minimize heart damage resulting from cancer treatments. Alpha-linolenic acid and secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, which have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, respectively, could prove useful in the prevention of heart disease caused by chemotherapy.

A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition evaluated whether the administration of flaxseed and/or its bioactive components, alpha-linolenic acid and secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, could prevent damage to the heart in mice injected with anticancer drugs.  The mice received daily preventative treatment with one of the following diets: 1) control diet; 2) flaxseed diet; 3) alpha-linolenic acid diet; or 4) secoisolariciresinol diglucoside diet for a total of 6 weeks.  Within each study group, mice received 3 weekly injections of saline or a combination of Doxorubicin and Trastuzumab starting at the end of week 3.

Study results indicated that daily administration of flaxseed, alpha-linolenic acid, or secoisolariciresinol diglucoside partially protected against cardiotoxic side effects from Doxorubicin and Trastuzumab therapy. According to Dr. Davinder S. Jassal MD. FACC, FRCP(C) (Professor, University of Manitoba), and colleagues who conducted the study, future clinical studies are warranted to investigate the prophylactic role of flaxseed consumption in preventing cardiotoxic side effects associated with anticancer drugs that are used to treat women with breast cancer. A corresponding editorial by Dr. Ghassan Bkaily and Dr. Danielle Jacques (University of Sherbrooke) stated that this study is a reason for excitement and new hope for the prevention and treatment of heart disease that is associated with breast cancer therapy.

Reference Asselin CY, Lam A, Cheung DYC, Eekhoudt CR, Zhu A, Mittal I, Mayba A, Solati Z, Edel A, Austria JA, Aukema HM, Ravandi A, Thliveris J, Singal PK, Pierce GN, Niraula S, Jassal DS. Prevention of Doxorubicin- and Trastuzumab-Mediated Cardiotoxicity in C57BL/6 Mice. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 9, 1 September 2020, Pages 2353–2363,

Bkaily G and Jacques D. Flaxseed as an Anticardiotoxicity Agent in Breast Cancer Therapy. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 9, 1 September 2020, Pages 2231–2232,

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