April 08/Hershey, Pa./Fish Information & Services -- Researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids could safely bolster tamoxifen therapy for women suffering from breast cancer. Omega-3s seemed to have a beneficial effect at the genetic level, making tumors more susceptible to the medication.

A research team led by Dr. Andrea Manni of Pennsylvania State University conducted an experiment on rats by provoking mammary tumors and then dividing the rats into four groups. For a period of eight weeks, the researchers fed the rats a 17% fish oil diet, with or without tamoxifen, or a 20% corn oil diet, with or without tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen is a drug used to treat breast cancer and slash the risk of breast cancer in women at increased risk of developing the condition. The drug interferes with the activity of the female hormone estrogen, said director of the Breast Cancer Research Laboratory at Fox Chase Cancer Centre Dr. Jose Russo, one of the researchers in the study.

The researchers concluded that rats fed omega-3 fatty acids had lower cancer severity compared to the groups fed corn oil. They also found that a diet that combined fish oil and tamoxifen cut the expression of genes known to produce tumor growth and the spread of cancerous cells, reports United Press International.

When analyzing the tumors, results showed that the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish oil administered to the rats boosted the activity of genes that encourage cellular specialization, or differentiation. This activity indicates a cancer-fighting effect, as cancer cells are greatly undifferentiated.

 "If a tumor was being treated with tamoxifen, the addition of an omega-3 fatty acid diet seemed to make the tumor, at least at the molecular level, more benign and less aggressive and responsive to tamoxifen," Russo stated.

At the same time, scientists warned that more studies are warranted to look into the effects of fish oil on the immune system. While omega-3 fatty acids strengthened genes active in immune defenses against cancer, they also appeared to set off genes that trigger negative immune responses -- including inflammation and allergic reactions -- which can themselves elicit cancer.

The team’s findings were presented at the 102nd annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Orlando, Fla.

The researchers are now studying whether a diet containing omega-3 fatty acids can avert breast cancer in animals and diet’s effect on breast cancer risk in women, reports ScienceDaily.

From the April 11, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News