Professor Per Kogner (picture) and his research team at Karolinska Institute in Sweden have found that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit cancer growth. Now in a new study children who have had cancer are receiving supplementation of the fatty acids.
Experiments at the Karolinska Institute is already in full swing. Several years ago, Per Kogners research team saw that omega-3 fatty acids kill cultured cancer cells. Now a group of children who have finished cancer treatment have been selected for inclusion in a clinical trial. They get supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) in the form of a juice based nutritional drink containing a high dose of Omega 3 every day for three months. In phase one, researchers will determine the dose that is right, then with longer treatment during phase two, they will study the effects omega-3 have on late complications and cancer recurrence.
– We know from other studies that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids are good for brain development and that those who eat a diet high in omega-3 are more rarely affected by cancer. Our own research shows that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the growth of both neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma. Now we go on to see how large doses are needed and how they affect the children, says Professor Per Kogner.
Reduce the risk of relapse and complications
The purpose of the study is to see if supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of relapse in the disease and also if the children feel better when drinking the juice with the fats. The researchers also want to see if complications after treatment can be reduced by using the supplement since it is previously shown that these fatty acids promotes the vision, behavior, heart and blood pressure and brain development.
– We have reason to believe that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of relapse and improve the child’s health, immune system, nutrition, cognition and quality of life. Other researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids improve the condition of children with ADHD and dyslexia and therefore it is important to test our hypothesis in children with cancer, says Per Kogner.
The reason for the hypothesis that omega-3 fatty acids work for children who have had brain tumors or neuroblastoma, is exactly where the tumors arise.
– Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the peripheral nervous system, medulloblasom in the central nervous system. Nerve tissue contains more fat than any other tissue in the body and is dependent on addressing the omega-3 fatty acids that we eat. In our previous experiments, we have seen that the implanted nerve cell tumors grow smaller and occur less often if you eat a diet that is enriched with omega-3, particularly DHA. Complications affecting the brain or metabolism also occurs in children with other cancers, so they will also be included in the clinical studies.
Fruit juice and fish oil
Omega-3 is found in vegetables and oily fish. The children included in the study will be drinking a specially made fruit juice with fish oil from Norway. The dose of it will be increased over time – as the researchers want to see how the dosage affects the body and if a higher dosage better reduce the risk of late complications and relapse, or maybe just give unnecessary additional risk side effects. The importance of children’s normal diet and previouse fatty acid balance will be investigated thouroughly.
– We want to see what balance is prefered. To see this, we examine the children carefully and measure the cells’ membranes and blood fats repeatedly. The first thing we want answered is how big dose the child needs to feel better, and if any side effects occur. In a few years when Phase 2 is completed, hopefully we know if the risk of relapse can be avoided for children receiving the supplementation, says Per Kogner.
Omega-3 combined with traditional treatment
The research team examines particularly the balance between omega-3 and omega-6,
– Both fats are important for the body’s cell membranes and other processes in the body that inflammation and the immune system, including programmed cell death. Unfortunately, the modern diet has too much omega-6 compared to omega-3.
Another very important part of the research team’s study is to evaluate whether omega-3 fatty acids can be combined with chemotherapy and / or radiation early in cancer treatment.
– The combination may result in us being able to cure more children, while improving nutrition and immune defense. In a few years, the results of our studies might be of value for children with cancer, even for those with leukemia and other tumors, not only neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma.
Kind and effective supplements in cancer treatment
If a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids work in the treatment of children with cancer, says Per Kogner that it will be something completely new.
– We know that chemotherapy kills both cancer cells and normal cells as a double-edged sword, which can both cure cancer and cause severe complications. Omega-3 fatty acid kills cancer cells but protects normal cells, especially brain cells are sensitive. In this way, these fatty acids are both sword and shield at once. With omega-3 sword, you can kill the cancer cells while its shield protects the body’s other cells. It will be both a protective and effective supplement in cancer treatment, the combined sword and shield, says Per Kogner.
Facts about polyunsaturated fats
• Polyunsaturated fats are essential for life. The body can not produce them, we have to get ourselves in them through food.
• The most important polyunsaturated fats are omega-3 and omega-6.
• Omega-3 found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, some seaweed, walnuts, canola oil and flaxseed.
• Omega-6 For example, in corn oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil.
• Omega-3 and Omega-6 has many different functions and is required in particular for the body to build and repair cells. They also affect the regulation of blood pressure, the kidneys are functioning and our immune system.
• Omega-3 and omega-6 affects the body in different ways. In many cases omega-3 attenuates the effects of omega-6, for example, when it comes to blood clotting and the immune system. Both lipids interact and it is therefore important to get through the food right amount of both.