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Pancreas. 2008 May;36(4):353-62. doi: 10.1097/MPA.0b013e31815ccc44.

Opposing effects of n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on pancreatic cancer growth.

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  • 1Hirshberg Laboratories for Pancreatic Cancer Research, Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.



Epidemiologic studies suggest that fish oil, rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), possesses antitumor activity, whereas n-6 PUFAs may stimulate the development of cancers. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of n-6 and n-3 PUFAs on the growth of pancreatic cancer.


The n-6 PUFA arachidonic acid (AA) stimulated the growth of cyclooxygenase (COX) 2 positive human pancreatic cancer (PaCa) cells, which was mediated by COX-2 generated prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) binding to EP2 and EP4 receptors. In contrast, the n-3 PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid decreased the growth of COX-2-positive and COX-2-negative PaCa cells. The COX-2-dependent mechanism of eicosapentaenoic acid was mediated by binding of PGE3 to EP2 and EP4 receptors. Dietary intake of n-3 PUFAs decreased the growth of pancreatic cancers in a xenograft model, which was accompanied by a decrease of PGE2 and an increase of PGE3 in the tumors.


Our studies provide evidence that n-3 PUFAs possess antitumor activities, whereas n-6 PUFAs stimulate pancreatic tumor growth. The opposite effects of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs are mediated by the formation of different prostaglandin species. n-3 PUFAs may prove beneficial as monotherapy or combination therapy with standard chemotherapeutic agents in pancreatic cancer patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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