LivingPalm oil may promote cancer metastasis

Palm oil may promote cancer metastasis

Metastasis occurs when cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and spread to other organs or tissues. It is the cause of 90% of deaths from cancer. Now a new study, published in the journal Nature and funded in part by the UK charity Worldwide Cancer Research, discovers how palmitic acid – the main component of palm oil – alters the cancer genome, increasing the likelihood that the cancer to spread. Researchers have begun developing therapies that disrupt this process and say a clinical trial could begin in the next few years.


Alters the tumor, making it more aggressive

Metastasis is promoted by fatty acids in our diet, but it is unclear how it works and if all fatty acids contribute to metastasis. This finding, from research led by experts from the Barcelona Institute for Biomedical Research, reveals that one of those fatty acids commonly found in palm oil, called palmitic acid, promotes metastasis in oral carcinomas and melanoma skin cancer in the experiment with mice. Other fatty acids called oleic acid and linoleic acid (omega-9 and omega-6 fats found in foods like olive oil and flax seeds) did not show this effect.

The research found that when palmitic acid was supplemented in the mice’s diet, it not only contributed to metastasis, but also exerted long-term effects on the genome. Cancer cells that had only been exposed to palmitic acid in the diet for a short period of time remained highly metastatic even when palmitic acid had been removed from the diet.

“If things go according to plan, we can start our first clinical trial in about two years. I am very excited about this research and working hard to create the best treatments that cancer patients are expected to benefit from in a near future “, explains Salvador Aznar-Benitah, from the Institute of Science and Technology and co-author of the work.


In the future, this process could be addressed with carefully designed medications or meal plans, but the team behind the work cautioned that patients should not go on diets in the absence of clinical trials, as ” it is still too early to determine what type of diet they could be used by patients with metastatic cancer to slow down the process ”, clarify the authors.

What is important is that the study adds to the emerging evidence that diet can be used to improve cancer treatments already present in the body, because tumor cells are disproportionately dependent on, or needed in, certain nutrients. critical stages such as metastasis.

“This discovery is a major advance in our understanding of how diet and cancer are linked and, perhaps most importantly, how we can use this knowledge to initiate new cures for cancer,” said Helen Rippon, CEO of Worldwide Cancer Research. .

Reference: Gloria Pascual, Diana Domínguez, Carmelo Laudanna, Marc Elosua-Bayes, Claudia Bigas, Felipe Beckedorff, Delphine Douillet, Carolina Greco, Aikaterini Symeonidi, Inmaculada Hernández, Sara Ruiz Gil, Neus Prats, Coro Bescós, Ramin Shiekhattar, Moran Amit, Holger Heyn, Ali Shilatifard & Salvador Aznar Benitah. ‘Dietary palmitic acid promotes metastatic memory via Schwann cells’. Nature (2021) DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-04075-0

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