No one has a definitive answer to that question at this stage, but some interesting observations have been made concerning the role that DHA seems to play in whether neuroblastoma cells (a type of brain cancer) continue to grow or die off.
As you probably know, all normal healthy cells are subject to apoptosis, which is when a cell dies. The problem with cancer cells is that they do not die…they just keep growing and taking over healthy cells. Now, some researchers at the famous Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, have found that the brain cancer cells mentioned above have very low levels of DHA.
Now, this is where it gets interesting!
When they were able to bring the levels of DHA up to that of a normal brain cell the neuroblastoma (cancer) cells then began the normal process of apoptosis. In other words they started to die...as a normal cell does…thus, preventing the spread or continuation of the cancer cells.
This is what one of the researchers had to say:
"We hope that this study can provide a deeper understanding of the actions of omega-3 fatty acids and their products in cancer cells, and why they can be of such high importance in treatment of the disease," said Helena Gleissman, Ph.D., co-author of the study from the Childhood Cancer Research Unit of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. "Ultimately, we hope that we can be able to cure more children with neuroblastoma, and possibly other cancers."
"This is good news for those looking to stop cancer. We now know that DHA plays both offense and defense when it comes to protecting our health," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal. "It's ability to help prevent numerous diseases is well documented, but now we see that DHA or one of its byproducts might serve as the starting point for a new class of anti-cancer drugs.”
It appears that the researchers hope is that they may be able to use DHA as a possible cure for this form of cancer, and let’s hope that this ultimately is the case. But, more than likely researchers will use what they are learning about DHA and try to synthesize a patent anti-cancer drug. That is where the money is!
But…I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one because there are always problems (side effects) in all drugs which are patentable synthetic copies of a natural substance. It makes much more sense to use natural Omega 3 DHA fish oil as part of a cancer prevention protocol to ensure that your cells have adequate levels of DHA. I for one will be continuing with my daily dose of Omega 3/DHA Fish oil. This is important because the body cannot make its own DHA…it has do come from dietary sources and it is hard to get enough from diet alone.
The details of the study are as follows:
Helena Gleissman, Rong Yang, Kimberly Martinod, Magnus Lindskog, Charles N. Serhan, John Inge Johnsen, and Per Kogner. Docosahexaenoic acid metabolome in neural tumors: identification of cytotoxic intermediates. The FASEB Journal, 2010; 24 (3): 906 DOI: 10.1096/fj.09-137919