CANCER
April 30, 2009

Omega-3's Reduce Tumors in Mice

The more Omega-3 fatty acids mice consumed, the more their tumors shrank. Other variables also showed improvement.
According to new research, Omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in fighting tumor growth by thwarting cancer cell activity in several ways. This finding adds to a long list of the health benefits of the fatty acid, which is most prevalent in fish like salmon and sardines, as well as in leafy greens, flax seed, and walnuts.

DHA seemed to boost the cancer-fighting effects of cisplatin.

A.M. El-Mowafy and his team at Mansoura University in Egypt administered the Omega-3 docosahexanoic acid (DHA) to mice who were affected by tumor growth. In addition to measuring the size of the tumors throughout the study, they also took note of several variables related to tumor growth, in order to determine how DHA might exert its effects at the molecular level. One variable measured was the level of C-reactive protein in the blood, which is produced in response to inflammation, a common sign of tumor growth; another measure was lipid peroxidation, the process by which free radicals damage cells by degrading the cell wall; finally, white blood cell count was determined, which is a good measure of the body's immune response.

As suspected, administration of DHA produced a "dose-dependent" reduction in the size of the mice's tumors. This was also true for the three additional measures mentioned above. "Dose-dependency" simply implies that the more DHA was given, the more tumor size and other variables declined as a result.

In addition to these findings, the researchers also wanted to study how DHA might work with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin, which is known to cause serious kidney damage in patients. Interestingly, in mice who were treated with DHA, none died as a result of kidney failure — and even further, DHA seemed to boost the cancer-fighting effects of cisplatin.

More research will be needed to determine whether the findings will hold true for humans, but the researchers are optimistic that their result will provide an effective new method for the treatment of cancer. Said Ed-Mowafy, "[o]ur results suggest a new, fruitful drug regimen in the management of solid tumors based on combining cisplatin and possibly other chemotherapeutics with DHA."

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