Omega-3 Fatty Acids as an Adjuvant to Cancer Therapy
Pp. 26-38 (13)
Elaine W. Hardman
The growth of various types of cancers including lung, colon, mammary, and prostate in
animal models has been slowed by supplementing the diet of the tumor-bearing mice or rats with oils
containing omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids or with purified n-3 fatty acids. The efficacy of cancer
chemotherapy drugs such as doxorubicin, epirubicin, CPT-11, 5-fluorouracil, and tamoxifen and of
radiation therapy has been improved when the diet included n-3 fatty acids. A number of potential
mechanisms have been identified for the activity of n-3 fatty acids against cancer including modulation
of: eicosanoid production and inflammation, angiogenesis, proliferation, susceptibility for apoptosis,
estrogen signaling and free radical activity. The response to chemotherapy was better in breast cancer
patients with higher levels of n-3 fatty acids in adipose tissue (indicating past consumption of n-3 fatty
acids) than in patients with lower levels of n-3 fatty acids in one study. Omega-3 fatty acids have also
been used to suppress cancer-associated cachexia and improve the quality of life in human studies.
Thus, supplementing the diet with n-3 fatty acids may be a nontoxic means to improve the outcome of
standard cancer therapies and may slow or prevent recurrence of cancer in patients that are not
candidates for standard cancer treatments.
Arachidonic Acid, Cancer, Corn Oil, Cyclooxygenase, Docosahexaenoic Acid, Diet,
Eicosanoid, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, Fatty Acid, Fish, Fish Oil, Food, Nutrition, PPAR-Gamma.
Nutrition and Cancer Center and Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, Marshall University, Huntington, WV, USA