PHILADELPHIA, Pa — A new study shows that taking fish oil pills — which contain omega-3 fatty acids — could help immunotherapy drugs cure cancer.
Researchers found that omega-3 supplements increase the ability of these drugs to attack tumors. In experiments with mice, the combination reduced the spread of cancer in the body by two-thirds. Lead author Abigail Kelly, a research associate at Harvard University, describes the results as “very promising”.
“Nutritional interventions can be powerful tools because they are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement,” says Kelly in a media release. “Our results demonstrate that omega-3 supplementation has the potential to broadly improve immunotherapy and other anticancer drugs in the clinical setting.”
Drugs that stimulate the body’s immune system have revolutionized cancer treatment. However, they don’t work for everyone.
Dietary supplement with omega-3 fatty acids they typically come in three forms: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Individuals looking to get more healthy fatty acids through their diet should eat more oily fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and related oils. Some foods like eggs and milk are often fortified with the three types of omega-3 fatty acids.
Studies have shown that eating these foods reduces the risk of cancer. They are also available as over-the-counter dietary supplements, with a global annual market value in the billions of dollars.
Omega-6 has the opposite effect on cancer
The new study shows that omega-3 increases the effectiveness of immunotherapy and anti-inflammatory cancer drugs. Aggressive tumors in treated laboratory rodents shrank by 67 percent when the researchers added the fatty acids to the animals’ standard diet.
Scientists believe they work together, making the combined effect greater than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, mice that ate fatty acids from meat and eggs, known as omega-6, saw negative results.
“We have shown for the first time that the combination of immunotherapy and anti-inflammatory treatment (sEHi) was more effective when mice were fed diets enriched with omega-3 fatty acids,” reports Kelly. “This is very promising as dietary supplementation is easy to implement for cancer patients and can be added for patients already receiving immunotherapy.”
Researchers are now studying the mechanism behind the anti-tumor activity of omega-3 supplementation. They conduct studies using human cancer tissues and cells, human immune cells, and animal models. The discovery offers a potential new treatment for patients.
previous studies also point out that fish oil supplements are a useful substance for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
Researchers present the findings at the American Society for Investigative Pathology Meeting 2022 in Philly.
Mark Waghorn, author for the South West News Service, contributed to this report.