Omega-3 fatty acid shows potential as a non-toxic additive to chemotherapy
An omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), promotes cell death in multiple myeloma (a type of cancer arising from cancerous white blood cells in the bone marrow) and may potentially enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy, according to research findings published in Genes & Cancer.
Multiple myeloma is difficult to treat with drugs because the multiple myeloma cells override the patient’s immune response and hijack other pathways to continue to survive and grow. One of those pathways is called “signal transducer and activator of transcription 3” (STAT3) and is responsible for cell growth and death. Transcription 3 refers to a group of proteins that read and interpret the genetic “blueprint” in DNA.
STAT3 plays a role in drug resistance and suppressing the immune system response and is an attractive target for therapeutic intervention.
Exploring DHA’s role as an anti-cancer agent
A team of researchers in Italy set out to find a combination therapy that would lead to long-term success in multiple myeloma. They knew from previous research that the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), was found to have anti-cancer properties. In this study, they analyzed the cell-death-inducing activity of DHA in human multiple myeloma cells compared to normal white blood cells.
They found that DHA promotes cell death in multiple myeloma cells without causing harmful effects on the white blood cells. They also found that DHA activates the process that helps recruit immune cells to clear out cancer cells (known as autophagy) and blocks the STAT3 pathway from allowing cell growth for both the multiple myeloma cells and the normal white blood cells.
The researchers suggest that their findings encourage the potential use of DHA either alone or combined with conventional chemotherapies.