Omega-3 could supress cancer growth

The College of Pharmacy in WSU Spokane recently took a notable step toward finding a cure for cancer.

The discovery was made as a result of Omega-3 research conducted by professor and associate dean for graduate education in the College of Pharmacy Kathryn Meier and her pharmacy students Ze Liu and Mandi Hopkins. What they found was a receptor in Omega-3 fatty acids that suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells.

“I suggested why don’t we see what Omega-3 fatty acids really do to prostate cancer cells, because we had a lot of background work on prostate cancer cells,” Meier said.

With prior knowledge that Omega-3 had proteins with several benefits such as suppressing inflammation and providing insulin for diabetes, their research would further explore the receptors’ effects.

“Already it was known that receptors were doing lots of important things. It was an emerging area, but no one had looked at that in cancer cells before,” Meier said.

The research consisted of testing drugs that mimicked the effects of Omega-3 fatty acids and putting Omega-3 fatty acids on prostate cancer cells where it was quickly observed they were suppressing signals that had to do with growth.

While there are a variety of studies that either support Omega-3 fatty acids and some that believe they increase the risks of prostate cancer, Meier thinks that their research provides more trust in Omega-3 fatty acids.

“Our study is one more line of reasoning that Omega-3’s are OK to take, I can’t say that they’re going to cure cancer, that requires a lot more work in animals and humans, so we’re not there yet,” Meier said. “But I could say based on our work that you shouldn’t be afraid of taking them.”

Meier says that the next step of the project is to conduct the same studies on breast cancer cells. They are also attempting to get funding from IHN.

“The next series of experiments and grants we’re working on have to do with how it happens because if we understood that, that might open even more doors to suppressing cancer cells,” Meier said.

Ideally, this research could be used for cancer prevention due to the Omega-3’s ability to not allow the cancer cell grow in the first place.

“The long-term goal is to discover more. Always discover more. Basically to understand more on how things work and to develop new classes of drugs for people to help whatever conditions they have,” Meier said.

Meier has practiced pharmacology at several institutions including UC San Diego, University of Wisconsin, University of South Carolina and the University of Washington. She was the College of Pharmacy’s Chair of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology while she searched for interesting projects for her students in the nutrition department.