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Chemotherapy. 2013;59(3):214-24. doi: 10.1159/000356067. Epub 2013 Dec 13.

Induction of apoptosis by the medium-chain length fatty acid lauric acid in colon cancer cells due to induction of oxidative stress.

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School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Roseworthy Campus, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, S.A., Australia.



Fatty acids are classified as short-chain (SCFA), medium-chain (MCFA) or long-chain and hold promise as adjunctive chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of colorectal cancer. The antineoplastic potential of MCFA remains underexplored; accordingly, we compared the MCFA lauric acid (C12:0) to the SCFA butyrate (C4:0) in terms of their capacity to induce apoptosis, modify glutathione (GSH) levels, generate reactive oxygen species (ROS), and modify phases of the cell cycle in Caco-2 and IEC-6 intestinal cell lines.


Caco-2 and IEC-6 cells were treated with lauric acid, butyrate, or vehicle controls. Apoptosis, ROS, and cell cycle analysis were determined by flow cytometry. GSH availability was assessed by enzymology.


Lauric acid induced apoptosis in Caco-2 (p < 0.05) and IEC-6 cells (p < 0.05) compared to butyrate. In Caco-2 cells, lauric acid reduced GSH availability and generated ROS compared to butyrate (p < 0.05). Lauric acid reduced Caco-2 and IEC-6 cells in G0/G1and arrested cells in the S and G2/M phases. Lauric acid induced apoptosis in IEC-6 cells compared to butyrate (p < 0.05). Butyrate protected IEC-6 cells from ROS-induced damage, whereas lauric acid induced high levels of ROS compared to butyrate.


Compared to butyrate, lauric acid displayed preferential antineoplastic properties, including induction of apoptosis in a CRC cell line.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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