University of California San Francisco

Omega-6 Fatty Acids Cause Prostate Tumor Cell Growth in Culture

By Steve Tokar, UCSF News Services | August 1, 2005

A study conducted at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) has demonstrated that omega-6 fatty acids such as the fat found in corn oil promote the growth of prostate tumor cells in the laboratory. The study also identifies a potential new molecular target for anti-tumor drugs: an enzyme known as cPLA2, which plays a key role in the chain leading from omega-6 fatty acids to prostate tumor cell growth.

The study was led by Millie Hughes-Fulford, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Cell Growth at SFVAMC and scientific advisor to the U.S. Undersecretary of Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is being published in the September 2005 issue of Carcinogenesis, and is currently available online.

Working with human prostate cancer cells in tissue culture, Hughes-Fulford and her fellow researchers identified for the first time a direct chain of causation: When introduced into prostate tumor cells in culture, omega-6 fatty acid causes the production of cPLA2, which then causes the production of the enzyme COX2. In turn, COX2 stimulates the release of PGE2, a hormone-like molecule that promotes cell growth.

"What's important about this is that omega-6 fatty acids are found in corn oil and most of the oils used in bakery goods," says Hughes-Fulford, who is also an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). "Which means that if you're eating a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids, it's possible that you're turning on this cancer cascade, which has been shown to be a common denominator in the growth of prostate, colorectal, and some breast cancers."

Read more at Steve Tokar, UCSF News Services