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Study explains why omega-3 fatty acids prevent breast cancer

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Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to provide a preventative effect against breast cancer. A new study shows omega-3 fatty acids render the preventative effect by suppressing the NF-kB transcription activity, nuclear localization and overall function.

The study also found evidence suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent luminal A, B and basal breast cancer subtypes, but not HER2 overexpressing subtype.

Previous studies have found Omega-3 fatty acids to be able to affect tumor growth in preclinical models of breast cancer while epidemiological studies did not yield consistent results.

Dr. C. Chen and colleagues from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Kansas Cancer Center in Kansas City, Kansas hypothesized that omega-3 fatty acids are effective against certain subtypes of breast cancer only.

In their study, the researchers tested omega-3 ethyl esters derived from Lovaza in four lines of breast cancer cells representing four principal molecular subtypes of the malignancy, luminal A, luminal B, basal and HER2 overexpressors.

The study agent is an anti-hypertriglyceride medication, which is, according to the authors, currently evaluated in trials as a chemopreventive for breast cancer.

The researchers found the omega-3 ethyl esters suppressed NF-kB transcriptional activity, nuclear localization and overall function effectively in the cell lines of the luminal A, luminal B and basal subtypes.

But the omega-3 ethyl esters did not have an effect on the aggressive HER2 overall expressing cell lines. 

The researchers said results from the ongoing clinical trials will confirm whether omega-3 ethyl esters prevent only certain subtypes of breast cancer.

Previous studies have already suggested the transcription factor NF-kB is a central key factor that modulates inflammation and cancer cell survival.  Nf-kB has also been found to play important roles in all stages of breast cancer development from cancer initiation to promotion.

The study results were represented at the 33rd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium held in San Antonio, Texas from Dec 8 through Dec 12.

Breast cancer is diagnosed in more than 175,000 women and 50,000 die from the disease each year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.  

Many experts believe breast cancer in many cases is preventable as the risk of the disease is associated with a person's diet and lifestyle.  

David Liu

(Study reports on mammograms and chemotherapy will be published soon)

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