Fatty acids and breast cancer: sensitization to treatments and prevention of metastatic re-growth

Prog Lipid Res. 2010 Jan;49(1):76-86. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2009.08.003. Epub 2009 Aug 26.


Lifestyle and nutritional factors have been recognized to influence breast cancer survival, irrespective of genomic alterations that are the hallmarks of the disease. The biological and molecular mechanisms involved in the effects of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids and breast cancer response to treatments in clinical and preclinical studies have been reviewed. Among nutrients, rumenic acid, a naturally occurring CLA isomer and n-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) a highly unsaturated fatty acid, have emerged due to their potential to increase cancer treatment efficacy without additional side effects. In this review, we analyze the literature evidence that breast cancer treatment and outcome could be improved through an adjuvant dietary supplementation. Such an original approach would involve two successive phases of breast cancer treatment: an initial sensitization of residual tumor cells to chemotherapy and to radiation therapy with dietary DHA; then a prevention of metastatic re-growth with a prolonged rumenic acid supplementation. Safety is not anticipated to be a critical issue, although it has to be assessed in the long term. Dietary supplements, used in combination to anti-cancer agents, should be provided under medical prescription. Such an original use of fatty acids in breast cancer treatment could provide the lipid field with a new avenue to impact public health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Oxidative Stress


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Linoleic Acids, Conjugated
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids