Scientific Research: DHA Fatty Acids in the Treatment of Cancer

September 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Nutrients For Life

Nutrient therapies are a significant part of naturopathic health care and disease prevention. Nutraceuticals (nutrients used at therapeutic dosages) can also contribute in safe and effective treatment protocols. The following extract is taken from an article on research that indicates positive results when using DHA (a fatty acid derived from fish oil) to treat (cancerous) solid-tumour growth in animals. The research also demonstrated positive results for reducing the toxic effects of certain pharmaceutical cancer treatments, when using DHA in combination with these medications: 

Chemopreventive and Renal Protective Effects for Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): implications of CRP and lipid peroxides.

ME El-Mesery, MM Al-Gayyar, HA Salem, MM Darweish and AM El-Mowafy
Cell Division 2009, 4:6: 1186/1747-1028-4-6.

“Cancer ranks second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of mortality. There are several treatment modalities to control cancer. Unfortunately, surgery and radiation are only effective against local neoplasms. Moreover, chemotherapy tends to indiscriminately destroy both normal and tumor cells, as a consequence of their remarkably low therapeutic windows. The latter profiles trigger an endless series of serious adverse reactions that can be life-threatening.

Further, the frequent eruption of resistance to chemotherapeutic agents poses a serious challenge to their efficacy in cancer management. For instance, cispaltin (CP) is a commonly used cytotoxic agent in the treatment of numerous solid tumors. However, its clinical usefulness is limited by the development of a myriad of adverse reactions; including a serious, possibly fatal nephrotoxicity that is reproducible in many animal models. Hence, the search has unfailingly continued to identify more promising antitumor agents or combinations that would preferably exhibit less health hazards. A major aspect of this drug search, therefore, has targeted natural agents; hoping that they would augment actions or reduce doses of ordinary chemotherapeutic drugs; thus improving their overall performance. One of such natural agent candidates has been docosahexanoic acid (DHA), an ?-3 fatty acid that is commonly found in cold-water fish-oil, and some vegetable/algae oils. Naturally, DHA is a major component of brain gray matter and of the retina in most mammalian species and is considered essential for normal neurological and cellular developments.

Accordingly, supplemental DHA exhibited a plethora of health benefits; including protection against cardiovascular, neurological and neoplastic diseases. The antineoplastic effects of DHA that have been evaluated in animal models and relevant human trials, showed some hope that this fatty acid may offer anti-tumor profiles, and could also enhance the sensitivity of tumor cells to ordinary chemotherapy. Nevertheless, a paucity of information is available on its possible combined effects with CP. Also, because of its nature as a polyunsaturated fatty acid, the impact of DHA on lipid peroxidation has been controversial. Besides, thus far, the effects of DHA on the in-vivo growth of Ehrlich cells (breast-cancer-type cells) have never been sought. Also, the possible diagnostic/prognostic impact of CRP in solid tumor carcinogenesis has been poorly understood. Therefore, in EAC-solid tumor model, we evaluated the chemopreventive effects of DHA, its impact on that of CP, and the utility of c-reactive protein (CRP) as a diagnostic/prognostic predictor of this tumor growth and/or responsiveness to chemotherapy. On the other hand, CP induces substantive nephrotoxicity that is characterized by renal tubular necrosis, proteinuria with upregulation of specific signals like TNF-?, chemokines and cytokines. Therefore, a principal current interest was to elucidate whether, and how then, DHA could alleviate this CP-evoked lethal renal dysfunction in rats.

Conclusion: DHA elicited prominent chemopreventive effects on its own, and appreciably augmented those of CP as well. The extent of tumor progression in various mouse groups was highly reflected by CRP levels (thus implying a diagnostic/prognostic role for CRP). Further, this study is the first to reveal that DHA can obliterate the lethal CP-induced nephrotoxicity and renal tissue injury. At the molecular level, DHA appears to act by reducing leukocytosis, systemic inflammation, and oxidative stress”.

Please Note: I do not ever condone using animals for scientific research where animals are harmed in any way. However, as the general public now require natural medicines to be evidence-based, unfortunately researchers are compelled to use animals in many research trials using the same or similar methods as conducted in pharmaceutical drug trials. While I would not ever agree with any animal suffering, the research trial included here has already been conducted and therefore I feel that the information provided by this research may be of value to others.

Yours In Great Health,

Sar Rooney BHSc., ND., DC., DASc., GDSc. (Hons), MATMS, MNHAA, MHATO

Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner, Lecturer, Researcher 

Earth Medicine TM


Email: [email protected]


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Sar Rooney is a Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner specialising in Anxiety and Depression |Women’s Health| Hormonal Imbalances | Thyroid Disorders | Digestive Health | Genetic Polymorphisms (MTHFR/Pyroluria) | Nutritional Medicine | Optimal Wellness & Disease Prevention 

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Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. Please note: I am not a medical practitioner.


2 Responses to “Scientific Research: DHA Fatty Acids in the Treatment of Cancer”
  1. roclafamilia says:

    Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

  2. badmash says:

    I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

    I will no doubt be posting more information about the benefits of fish oils in the future as there is such a lot of research being doing in this field.
    Pure fish oils have been shown to improve cardiovascular function, reduce inflammation and therefore help arthritis, eczema and other inflammatory conditions and fish oils have also been shown to assist with cognitive brain function, mild depression and a large range of other health problems. Therefore, in the future, I will include research trials on fish oils and many other nutrients that readers may be interested in.
    Kind regards
    Sar Rooney