(n-3) Fatty Acids and Cancer Therapy1 W. Elaine Hardman2
Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Supplementing the diet of tumor-bearing mice or rats with oils containing (n-3) (omega-3) or with purified (n-3) fatty acids has slowed the growth of various types of cancers, including lung, colon, mammary, and prostate. 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. Some potential mechanisms for the activity of (n-3) fatty acids against cancer include modulation of eicosanoid production and inflammation, angiogenesis, proliferation, susceptibility for apoptosis, and estrogen signaling. In humans, (n-3) fatty acids have also been used to suppress cancer-associated cachexia and to improve the quality of life. In one study, the response to chemotherapy therapy 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) fattyacids. Thus, in combination with standard treatments, supplementing the diet with (n-3) fatty acids may be a nontoxic means to improve cancer treatment outcomes and may slow or prevent recurrence of cancer. Used alone, an (n-3) supplement may be a useful alternative therapy for patients who are not candidates for standard toxiccancer therapies. J. Nutr. 134: 3427S–3430S, 2004.