New Discoveries between Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cancer


Bruce Hammock Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Entomology at UC Davis and Faculty Researcher at the UC Davis Cancer Center and Foods for Health Institute, and his research team discovered a link between omega-3 fatty acids and reducing the spread of cancer. It has been previously known that omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water oceanic fish oils and supplements, have cancer-reducing qualities but the process has not been fully understood. Dr. Hammock’s team is led by post-doctoral researcher Dr. Guodong Zhang, who said, “Our investigation opens up a new understanding of the pathways by which omega-3 fatty acids exert their biologic effect.”

The body metabolizes omega-3 fatty-acids and releases epoxy docosapentaenoic acid (EDP), which helps combat cancer. Tumors grow and spread, disrupting the formation of new blood cells, a process known as angiogenesis. Dr. Hammock’s team found that EDP inhibits this process in mice, reducing tumor growth and blocking angiogenesis differently than certain anti-cancer drugs. 

Dr. Zhang says the study “provides a novel mechanism by which the omegas inhibit cancer.” EDPs are the first signaling lipids that have been discovered with potent properties that combat cancer. Research findings from this study were published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and featured in Science Daily and popular publications like the San Francisco Chronicle.

The ground-breaking work of Dr. Hammock’s Lab contributes to a growing body of knowledge on the relationship between diet and cancer. The results of their studies provide researchers with the knowledge to develop stronger anti-cancer drugs and therapies that emerge from knowledge of how the human body uses nutrition to promote health.

Read more from UC Davis news and Dr. Hammock's Lab