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Fish fat kills cancer cells


Fatty acids from fish oils and fatty fish can destroy the power station - the mitochondria- in certain types of cancer cells, making the cells commit suicide.These are the conclusions in a new thesis that Hilde Heimli at the Institute for Nutrition Research at the University of Oslo, in Norway, presented in October 2002. The study was supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society. In her thesis, Hilde Heimli has examined how polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid is ingested by different leukemia/lymphoma cell lines. The researcher has examined how some types of cancer cells commit suicide in this setting, in other words programmed cell death or apoptosis.

Activated by an enzyme
If omega-3 fatty acids are to be capable of killing cancer cells, the cells have to contain a certain enzyme, that activate these certain fatty acids. Cancer cells that contain less of this enzyme do not react to fish fat.

"Polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish also can initiate a less regulated cell death called necrosis. The reason for the necrotic cell death is an increased production of reactive oxygen species in the cells. It is possible to appose this necrosis by the presence of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E," says Hilde Heimli to

Can prevent cancer
This work contributes to an increased understanding of how cancer cells grow and develop. This knowledge may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of certain types of cancer. Heimli’s experiments are developed from cancer cell lines – cells that originally came from leukemia patients,but she doesn’t see any reason that cancer cells of other origins shouldn’t commit suicide when exposed to fish fat.

So far - laboratory experiments
"The experiments have been done in dishes in a laboratory setting. The polyunsaturated fatty acids that are used are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),which are the same type as found in fatty fish or regular fish oil capsules.

The fatty acids are added to the the food given to the cancer cells in a way that is most like the body’s own process," says Heimli.

The basic knowledge from this work contributes to a larger understanding of growth regulation in cancer cells.

As a final result, one believes that this new knowledge can be used in the prevention and treatment of certain types of cancer.

If you have any questions, please contact the editorial office:

Barbara Mortensen | EurekAlert!

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