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Cancer Res. 2001 Feb 15;61(4):1386-91.

Suppression of tumor cell growth both in nude mice and in culture by n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: mediation through cyclooxygenase-independent pathways.

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  • 1Pennington, Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge 70808, USA.


Dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), as compared with n-6 PUFAs, suppress cellular production of prostaglandins and tumor cell growth both in vitro and in vivo. However, the mechanism by which n-3 PUFAs suppress tumor growth is not understood. We investigated whether the suppression of tumor cell growth by dietary n-3 PUFAs is mediated through inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX). A colon tumor cell line, HCT-116, that does not express COX was stably transfected with the constitutively expressed COX-1 or the inducible COX-2 cDNA using a retroviral transfection and infection system. Athymic nude mice transplanted with the cells expressing enzymatically active COX were fed isocaloric diets containing either safflower oil or fish oil for 2 weeks before the start of the experiment and for an additional 21 days after transplantation. Both tumor volume and tumor burden (tumor volume/body weight) were significantly reduced in mice fed the fish oil diet as compared with safflower oil-fed mice. This reduction occurred even in control mice that received injections with cells infected with the retroviral vector without COX-1 or COX-2 cDNA. The growth of tumor cells expressing COX was not different from the growth of those transfected with the vector alone in the nude mice and in soft agar. N-3 PUFAs, as compared with linoleic acid, also inhibited the growth of these cells in culture. This growth inhibition by n-3 PUFAs was not affected by COX-1 or COX-2 overexpression. Contrary to general belief, these results indicate that the suppression of tumor growth by dietary n-3 PUFAs is mediated through COX-independent pathways.

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