Omega 3 May Poison and Kill Cancer Cells
Scientists at University of Louvain in Belgium have found a way to use a well-known omega-3 fatty acid (DHA, found mainly in fish) to disintegrate solid tumors within a few days.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is highly relevant to crucial brain function, vision, and the regulation of inflammatory phenomena. And DHA has now been found to be associated with a reduction in the incidence of cancer.
A study is published in Cell Metabolism. It sheds light on the biochemical mechanism that allows DHA and other related fatty acids to slow the development of tumors.
"We soon found that certain fatty acids stimulated the tumor cells while others killed them," the scientists explain in a press release issued by University of Louvain.
Cells in an acidic microenvironment (acidosis) within tumors replace glucose with lipids as an energy source in order to multiply. These cells are very aggressive and acquire the ability to leave the original tumor to generate metastases. The scientists have discovered that these acidotic tumor cells responded in diametrically opposite ways depending on the fatty acid they were absorbing. DHA literally poisons tumor cells via a phenomenon called ferroptosis, a type of cell death linked to the peroxidation of certain fatty acids.
The press release is accompanied by a press kit with explanations, presentations, and videos.
Besides studying cells in the lab, the scientists also administered a DHA-enriched diet to mice with tumors. The result: tumor development was significantly slowed compared to that in mice on a conventional diet.
Hungry for fatty acids, tumor cells in acidosis gorge themselves on DHA. But they are unable to store it correctly. And they literally poison themselves and die as a result.
Cancer cells store fatty acids in lipid droplets, in which the fatty acids are protected from oxidation. But in the presence of a large amount of DHA, the tumor cell is overwhelmed and cannot store the DHA, which oxidizes and leads to cell death. By using a lipid metabolism inhibitor that prevents the formation of lipid droplets, the scientists were able to amplify this effect. This confirms the identified mechanism and opens the door to combined treatment possibilities.
The Belgian TV and news service RTBF covers this study as “a major discovery.”
This study shows the value of DHA in fighting cancer. “These data point out dietary PUFA as a selective adjuvant antitumor modality that may efficiently complement pharmacological approaches,” states the Cell Metabolism study.
PUFA stands for polyunsaturated fatty acids such as DHA. “The well-established link between tumor acidosis and disease progression, including through increased invasiveness, drug resistance, and immune escape,” makes dietary PUFA supplements “a particularly relevant strategy to be implemented,” the scientists suggested, as reported by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.
"For an adult, it's recommended to consume at least 250 mg of DHA per day,” say the scientists. “But studies show that our diet provides on average only 50 to 100 mg per day. This is well below the minimum recommended intake."
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