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Products Of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Metabolism Show Anti-Cancer Properties In Mice


New research from the University of Illinois finds products of omega-3 fatty acid metabolism show anti-cancer properties in mice.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain development. When the body metabolizes these fats, it creates a class of compounds that help reduce pain and inflammation. Known as endocannabinoids, the molecules behave similarly to compounds in marijuana, but without the psychotropic effects.

Aditi Das is a comparative biosciences professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In previous research, she found a class of oxidized endocannabinoids have anti-inflammatory effects.

“We were very interested to know what other properties [it has],” she said.

So she teamed up with veterinary clinical medicine professor Timothy Fan to explore whether they play a role in cancer.

In a new study, the researchers found the molecules aren’t as good at killing cancer as current chemotherapy drugs, but they do inhibit the growth and spread of bone cancer cells in mice.

Researchers from Northwestern University, who are also exploring anti-cancer drugs, recently told Crain's Chicago Business that slowing the growth and spread of cancer cells could be an important strategy in cancer treatment.

"Once we can slow down cell movement, it can potentially supercharge other treatments like chemotherapy, radiation and whatever else is part of the current standard of care, because it will be easier to hit the cancerous targets," said Karl Scheidt, director of the Center for Molecular Innovation and Drug Discovery at Northwestern.

Das said next steps will include similar studies on other cancer types. They’ll also use chemistry to try to find a more potent version of the drug.

Das said there is currently no cure for osteosarcoma.

“And osteosarcoma mostly affects growing children, like teenagers," she said. "So it’s a very sad cancer subtype.”

Follow-up studies will also include pre-clinical trials in dogs with bone cancer.

The study was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman