Study Reveals How Dietary Fats May Contribute To Tumor Growth

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

Researchers in Professor Bruce Hammock’s laboratory at UC Davis are studying mechanisms involved in blocking angiogenesis — the formation of new blood vessels. The findings may lead to new methods for preventing cancer growth and targeting other diseases, the researchers report.

Postdoc Amy Rand is studying how certain fats can affect growth of blood vessels in tumors.

Postdoc Amy Rand is studying how certain fats can affect growth of blood vessels in tumors.

A recently-published study from Hammock’s lab describes a novel lipid-signaling molecule that can change fundamental biological processes involved in human health and disease. It builds on landmark research by the Judah Folkman laboratory of Harvard Medical School, which earlier showed that cutting off blood vessels that feed a cancerous tumor could stop its growth.

“We’ve found that a novel product derived from the metabolism of omega-6 fatty acids stimulates angiogenesis, which may contribute to enhanced tumor growth by providing tumors with oxygen and nutrients,” said lead author Amy Rand, a postdoctoral researcher and one of the team’s five researchers from UC Davis.

Dual roles of angiogenesis

“Angiogenesis is critical for wound healing and development, but many diseases result in unregulated angiogenesis, including cancer,” said Rand. She noted that it may be possible to control angiogenesis to stimulate wound healing when necessary but also to block tumor growth in patients.

“Diseases that rely on angiogenesis may be able to be treated, in part, by changes in dietary lipid exposure or by controlling levels of these metabolites through enzyme inhibitors that block their formation,” she said.

The research, published April 10 in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, explains, in part, why inhibiting the enzyme soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) in some systems promotes the formation of blood vessels, whereas combining sEH inhibition with the inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes is dramatically suppresses blood vessel formation and, in turn, may suppress tumor growth.

“There’s uncertainty regarding the link between unsaturated fats and cancer, due to ongoing conflicts between scientific studies and insufficient data,” Rand said. “Because of this, there is a major gap in our understanding of how these essential dietary fats affect our health. “

The researchers used tools to detect and characterize unknown metabolites from omega-6 unsaturated fats and determined their effect on angiogenesis in order to focus on how these fats contribute to cancer tumor growth.

Hammock, a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the newly published research holds long term hope for cancer patients and those afflicted with heart, eye and other diseases.

In addition to Rand and Hammock, the team also included Christophe Morisseau, Bogdan Barnych, and Kin Sing Stephen Lee all of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center; Tomas Cajka of the UC Davis Genome Center; and Dipak Panigraphy of Harvard Medical School. Lee is now an assistant professor at Michigan State University.

Funding

Rand last year received the $100,000 Judah Folkman Fellowship for Angiogenesis Research from the American Association for Cancer Research.

This work also was supported by the National Institute of Environmental HeaIth Sciences, the NIEHS Superfund Program and Rand’s training grant from the National Institute of Health through the NIEHS.

Kathy Keatley Garvey writes for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and UC Division of Ag and Natural Resources.  

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