Research has revealed that omega-3 fatty acids are more effective in stopping or slowing the growth in the number of triple-negative breast cancer cells in comparison to cells from luminal categories of breast cancer. The omega-3s were effective against all kinds of cells that were cancerous, but the effect was seen to be more pronounced in triple-negative breast cancer cell lines, with a proliferation reduction of up to 90%.
Oily fish like flounder and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and are also found in oils which come from plants like flax and hemp. Earlier research suggests these compounds are able to negatively affect critical cancer cell mechanisms, such as those responsible for programmed cell death (apoptosis) and for proliferation. The study highlights the valuable role common food compounds can play in cancer prevention.
Individuals having different kinds of breast cancer react in different ways to different treatments. Four different categories of breast cancer are generally recognized. 2 of those categories, luminal A and luminal B, develop in the luminal cells which line the breast milk ducts and have progesterone and estrogen receptors (prognosis is usually better for individuals having luminal A compared to those having luminal B). A 3rd category is comprised of tumors testing positive for the HER2 receptor.
Triple-negative tumors are in the 4th category, and are lacking receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and a protein known as HER2/neu. Because of this, this kind of breast cancer does not respond to treatments such as tamoxifen, which targets the estrogen receptor, and trastuzumab, which disrupts the HER2 receptor.
Currently, there are no targeted treatments available for triple-negative breast cancer diagnosed individuals. The standard treatment for early-stage triple-negative breast cancer is combination chemotherapy.
After omega-3s are digested by a cancer cell, the fatty acid is split up into smaller molecules know as metabolites. The effect of large omega-3 molecules, in addition to the smaller metabolites, was tested on 3 luminal breast cancer cell lines and 7 lines which included basal-type triple-negative breast cancer cells.
Omega-3 and its smaller molecule derivatives inhibited proliferation in all breast cancer cell lines, but the effect was dramatically stronger in the triple-negative breast cancer cell lines. The omega-3 metabolites also reduced the ability to move in the triple-negative breast cancer cell lines by 20 to 60 %.