Chapter 3

Omega-3 Fatty Acids as an Adjuvant to Cancer Therapy

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.

Total Pages: 26-38 (13)

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