An omega-3 that’s poison for tumors

So-called “good fatty acids” are essential for human health and much sought after by those who try to eat healthily. Among the Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is crucial to brain function, vision and the regulation of inflammatory phenomena.

In addition to these virtues, DHA is also associated with a reduction in the incidence of cancer. How it works is the subject of a major discovery by a multidisciplinary team of University of Louvain (UCLouvain) researchers, who have just elucidated the biochemical mechanism that allows DHA and other related fatty acids to slow the development of tumours. This is a major advance that has recently been published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Key to the discovery: interdisciplinarity

In 2016, Olivier Feron’s UCLouvain team, which specialises in oncology, discovered that cells in an acidic microenvironment (acidosis) within tumours replace glucose with lipids as an energy source in order to multiply. In collaboration with UCLouvain’s Cyril Corbet, Prof. Feron demonstrated in 2020 that these same cells are the most aggressive and acquire the ability to leave the original tumour to generate metastases. Meanwhile, Yvan Larondelle, a professor in the UCLouvain Faculty of Bioengineering, whose team is developing improved dietary lipid sources, proposed to Prof. Feron that they combine their skills in a research project, led by PhD candidate Emeline Dierge, to evaluate the behaviour of tumour cells in the presence of different fatty acids.

Thanks to the support of the Fondation Louvain, the Belgian Cancer Foundation and the Télévie telethon, the team quickly identified that these acidotic tumour cells responded in diametrically opposite ways depending on the fatty acid they were absorbing. Within a few weeks, the results were both impressive and surprising. “We soon found that certain fatty acids stimulated the tumour cells while others killed them,” the researchers explained. DHA literally poisons them….

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/06/210611110802.htm

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