An article in the March, 2010 issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB Journal) reports the discovery by scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, in collaboration with researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, of the ability of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, to kill neuroblastoma cells in vitro. Neuroblastoma is a cancer that originates in the sympathetic nervous system of an embryo or fetus. Five year survival is high when the disease is diagnosed in infancy, but averages 35 percent in children who develop the disease at a later age. It is currently treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or bone marrow transplant.
Docosahexaenoic acid is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain, and is necessary for proper neural development of the fetus. Increased DHA intake is associated with a number of benefits, including protection against several types of cancer. Helena Gleissman, PhD of Karolinska Institutet’s Childhood Cancer Research Unit and her colleagues tested the effect of DHA on cultured neuroblastoma cells and analyzed them for DHA’s metabolic byproducts. They found that while DHA itself destroyed the cancer cells, the fatty acid’s derivatives were even more effective at killing these cells.
The current study and previous research show that while DHA has been demonstrated to help protect neural cells from stress-induced apoptosis (programmed cell death), it also induces apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells. The discovery may be of significance for the treatment of other cancers, including those of the colon and prostate. “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,” Dr Gleissman commented. “Ultimately, we hope that we can be able to cure more children with neuroblastoma, and possibly other cancers.”
“This is good news for those looking to stop cancer,” FASEB Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerald Weissmann, MD remarked. “We now know that DHA plays both offense and defense when it comes to protecting our health. 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 anticancer drugs.”
Original article found here.