Skin toxicity following radiotherapy in patients with breast carcinoma: is anthocyanin supplementation beneficial?

EU-ATHENA Trial Investigators

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The EU-supported ATHENA project stems from a previous study suggesting that moderate wine consumption reduced the side-effects of radiotherapy (RT) in breast cancer patients, an effect possibly due to non-alcoholic anthocyanin fractions of wine.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the role of anthocyanins on RT skin side effects in breast cancer patients.

METHODS: Randomized, controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Patients were assigned to an intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) either for three or five weeks, then randomized to receive three times a day a water-soluble anthocyanin (125 mg)-rich extract of corn cob or a placebo. Supplementation started one week before till the end of RT. Skin characteristics were detected by a standardized, non-invasive Cutometer® dual-MPA580, providing quantitative indices of skin maximal distensibility (R0), elasticity (R2, R5, R7) and viscoelasticity (R6); a Mexameter® MX18 probe evaluated the skin erythema (Er) and melanin (M). Measures were performed before (T0), at the end of RT and of supplementation (T1), and 1, 6 and 12 months after RT (T2-T4). Acute and late skin toxicity were scored according to the RTOG/EORTG scale. Selected biomarkers were measured at T0 and T1.

RESULTS: 193 patients previously assigned to 3- or 5-week RT schedules were randomized to either anthocyanin (97) or placebo (96) supplementation. RT induced changes in skin parameters: R0, R2, R5 and R7 decreased, while R6 increased; the changes in R0 and R6 continued in the same direction up to one year, while the others recovered towards basal values; Er and M peaked at T1 and T2, respectively, and returned to basal values at T4. Comparable skin changes were apparent in anthocyanin and placebo groups. A moderate RT-induced increase in total and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides was prevented by anthocyanins.

CONCLUSIONS: Anthocyanin supplementation did not prevent RT-induced local skin toxicity. The supplementation was well tolerated and safe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2068-2077
JournalClinical Nutrition
Issue number4
Early online dateOct 6 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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