Products of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Metabolism May Have Anticancer Effects, Study Shows

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Summary: Researchers report that a class of molecules formed when the body metabolizes omega-3 fatty acids could inhibit cancer’s growth and spread.

In 2017, the research team identified a new group of omega-3 fatty-acid metabolites called endocannabinoid epoxides, or EDP-EAs. They found that these molecules had anti-inflammatory properties and targeted the same receptor in the body that cannabis does. Since cannabis has been shown to have some anti-cancer properties, in the new study the researchers investigated whether EDP-EAs also affect cancer cells. They found that in mice with osteosarcoma tumors that metastasized to their lungs, there was an 80% increase in naturally occurring EDP-EAs in cancerous lung tissues over the lungs of healthy mice. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported that A class of molecules formed when the body metabolizes omega-3 fatty acids could inhibit cancer’s growth and spread. The study findings were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Omega-3 may prevent cancer

Comparative biosciences professor Aditi Das and veterinary clinical medicine professor Timothy Fan found that a class of molecules that form when the body metabolizes omega-3 fatty acids may prevent cancer from migrating. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

In mice with tumors of osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that is notoriously painful and difficult to treat – endocannabinoids slowed the growth of tumors and blood vessels, inhibited the cancer cells from migrating and caused cancer cell death. The researchers found that in higher concentrations, EDP-EAs did kill cancer cells, but not as effective as other chemotherapeutic drugs on the market. However, the compounds also combated the osteosarcoma in other ways: They slowed tumor growth by inhibiting new blood vessels from forming to supply the tumor with nutrients, they prevented interactions between the cells, and most significantly, they appeared to stop cancerous cells from migrating. Next, the researchers plan to perform preclinical studies in dogs, since dogs develop osteosarcoma spontaneously, similarly to humans. They also plan to study the effects of EDP-EAs derived from omega-3 fatty acids in other cancer types.

Prof. Aditi Das said, “we have a built-in endocannabinoid system which is anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing. Now we see it is also anti-cancer, stopping the cells from proliferating or migrating”, “These molecules could address multiple problems: cancer, inflammation and pain.”

More Information: Jahnabi Roy et al, “Antitumorigenic Properties of Omega-3 Endocannabinoid Epoxides”, Journal of Medicinal Chemistry (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.8b00243 

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