Published in Cancer Detection and Prevention 2000; 24(Supplement 1).

Highly unsaturated fatty acid signalling in cancer

DF Horrobin MD PhD

Laxdale Research, Stirling, Scotland, agreen@laxdalecouk

There is increasing evidence that cancer and depression are related and that depression may precede cancer and also complicate its progression. There may therefore be common factors in the two illnesses. Two common factors which have been established are the over-production of a range of cytokines during the development of cancer and also in depression, and reduced levels of long chain highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs), especially HUFAs of the omega-3 group, in both cancer and depression. Since HUFAs regulate production of many cytokines, it is possible that the low HUFA levels may play an important role as a primary factor in both cancer and depression. There is now good evidence that administration of HUFAs can control elevated cytokine levels in late stage cancer, can attenuate and sometimes reverse cancer cachexia (a phenomenon in which cytokines play a major role), can relieve depression, and can in some cases slow the progression of cancer. This has particularly been shown following local administration in brain and bladder cancers, and co-administration with tamoxifen in breast cancer. The interactions between HUFAs and cytokines and other signal transduction processes are likely to play important roles in understanding and managing both depression and cancer.

KEY WORDS: highly unsaturated fatty acids, HUFAs, arachidonic acid, cytokines.

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Paper presented at the International Symposium on Impact of Biotechnology on Cancer Diagnostic & Prognostic Indicators; Geneva, Switzerland; October 28 - 31, 2000; in the section on satellite symposium.