Newswise, February 10, 2016– An experimental nanoparticle therapy that combines low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and fish oil preferentially kills primary liver cancer cells without harming healthy cells, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers report.
“This approach offers a potentially new and safe way of treating liver cancer, and possibly other cancers,” said study senior author , Assistant Professor in the Advanced Imaging Research Center (AIRC) and of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern. “The method utilizes the cholesterol carrier LDL, combined with fish oil to produce a unique nanoparticle that is selectively toxic to cancer cells.”
The study was published in the February issue of the journal Gastroenterology.
Primary liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma, is the sixth most prevalent type of cancer and third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Incidence of the disease is rising in the U.S., principally in relation to the spread of hepatitis C virus infection.
An editorial in the same issue of the journal notes that drug-based treatments for liver cancer are limited and that the UT Southwestern study showed “truly remarkable results that should prompt further research under preclinical settings, given its potential to lead to a paradigm shift in treatment.” More common treatments include surgical resection, liver transplantation, and ablation.
Fish oils are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid, also known as DHA. A 2012 study in Gastroenterology found that consumption of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids was associated with protection against the development of liver cancer in patients with hepatitis B or hepatitis C infections.