Cancer researchers say DHA in fish oil holds great promise

“[Docosahexaenoic acid’s] ability to help prevent numerous diseases is well documented, but now we see that DHA or one of its byproducts might serve as the starting point for a new class of anti-cancer drugs.”

The next treatment for cancer might come from a component of fish oil, according to new research published Mar 1 in FASEB Journal.(1) In the report, scientists show that the omega-3 fatty acid, “docosahexaenoic acid” or “DHA,” and its derivatives in the body kill neuroblastoma cells [nervous system cancer in young children]. This discovery could lead to new treatments for a wide range of cancers, including neuroblastoma, medulloblastoma [type of brain cancer], colon, breast, and prostate cancers, among others.

“We hope that this study can provide a deeper understanding of the actions of omega-3 fatty acids and their products in cancer cells, and why they can be of such high importance in treatment of the disease,” said Helena Gleissman, PhD, co-author of the study from the Childhood Cancer Research Unit of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. “Ultimately, we hope that we can be able to cure more children with neuroblastoma, and possibly other cancers.”

Scientists administered DHA to neuroblastoma cells from the nervous system and analyzed the cells for byproducts as the DHA was metabolized into the cells. They then examined the effect of both DHA and its derivatives on the growth of cancer cells.

Results showed that DHA killed the cancer cells, but that the toxic derivatives produced by DHA were even more effective at killing the cancer cells.

This suggests that DHA could become a new agent for treating neuroblastoma and possibly many other cancers.

“This is good news for those looking to stop cancer. We now know that DHA plays both offense and defense when it comes to protecting our health,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. “Its ability to help prevent numerous diseases is well documented, but now we see that DHA or one of its byproducts might serve as the starting point for a new class of anti-cancer drugs.”
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1. “Docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] metabolome in neural tumors: Identification of cytotoxic intermediates”

Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology news relese, Mar 1, 2010

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