Researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center have found that omega-3 fatty acids and their metabolite products slow or stop the growth in the number of triple-negative breast cancer cells more effectively than cells from luminal types of the disease. The omega-3s worked against all types of cancerous cells, but the effect was observed to be stronger in triple-negative cell lines, reducing proliferation by as much as 90 per cent.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish like sardines and salmon, and also in oils derived from plants like hemp and flax. Previous studies suggest these compounds can negatively affect critical mechanisms in cancer cells, namely those responsible for proliferation and for apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Lead author on the study Thomas J. Pogash, a scientific technician in the Fox Chase Cancer Center lab of Jose Russo, MD, said that the new work underscores the important role common compounds found in food may play in keeping cancer at bay. “When you compare a western diet to a mediterranean diet, which has more omega-3s, you see less cancer in the mediterranean diet. They eat much more fish,” Pogash said.

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