Fish Oil as a Possible Cure for Leukemia

According to scientists there is a compound that fish oil (FO) produces that targets leukemia stem cells. Could this lead to a possible cure for the disease? Penn State researchers think it probably could, though more research is necessary in humans.

A lot of the past research into omega-3 fatty acids has revealed health benefits on brain development and the cardiovascular system. Research of FO and brain development has shown particular benefits in infants. Now scientists have found that some metabolites (intermediate products of metabolic reactions) of Omega-3 have the capability to selectively destroy leukemia-causing stem cells in lab mice. Why this is so exciting is because all the mice recovered (cured) from leukemia and there was no incidence of relapse.

Killing the Stem Cells

With leukemia, it's critical to kill off the stem cells. This is a disease whereby the white blood cells can separate and produce even more cancerous cells and more stem-cells. Current treatments are not capable of killing leukemia's stem cells. It's why this research delivered such exciting news. It is the compound that FO produces which killed the cancer-causing stem cells in the lab mice's spleen and bone marrow. It activates a gene scientist's call p53 in the leukemia stem cell. What this does is program the cell's own death. It was a remarkable discovery.

The 1, 2, 3 Recovery

For the research, scientists injected every one of the diseased mice with around 600 nanograms (one thousand-millionth of a gram) of D12-PGJ3. They did this each day for one week. Tests showed that every single one of the mice was completely cured of the cancer. The three points to note were:

  1. Blood count went back to normal
  2. The mice's spleen returned to its normal size
  3. The leukemia did not relapse

At the time of writing, fish oil still comes under the umbrella of “complementary and alternative therapies,” subsection “nutrition and supplements.” Conventional medicine can be stubborn when it comes to change, but then it's also important to be cautious. Leukemia is, after all, a very complex disease. What treatment the patient gets all depends on their leukemia type and the features of their leukemic cells. Previous treatments, if any, can also play a part in future therapies.

Further Reading | A Human Study

Phase I clinical study of fish oil fatty acid capsules for patients with cancer cachexia: cancer and leukemia group B study 9473.

Burns CP1, Halabi S, Clamon GH, Hars V, Wagner BA, Hohl RJ, Lester E, Kirshner JJ, Vinciguerra V, Paskett E.

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