Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA induce apoptosis and enhance drug sensitivity in multiple myeloma cells but not in normal peripheral mononuclear cells

J Nutr Biochem. 2014 Dec;25(12):1254-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.06.013. Epub 2014 Sep 6.


The n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have been shown to enhance the effect of chemotherapeutic drugs in clinical studies in cancer patients and to induce apoptotic tumor cell death in vitro. Until now, EPA and DHA have never been investigated in multiple myeloma (MM). Human myeloma cells (L363, OPM-1, OPM-2 and U266) and normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells were exposed to EPA and DHA, and effects on mitochondrial function and apoptosis, caspase-3 activation, gene expression and drug toxicity were measured. Exposure to EPA and DHA induced apoptosis and increased sensitivity to bortezomib in MM cells. Importantly, they did not affect viability of normal human peripheral mononuclear cells. Messenger RNA expression arrays showed that EPA and DHA modulated genes involved in multiple signaling pathways including nuclear factor (NF) κB, Notch, Hedgehog, oxidative stress and Wnt. EPA and DHA inhibited NFκB activity and induced apoptosis through mitochondrial perturbation and caspase-3 activation. Our study suggests that EPA and DHA induce selective cytotoxic effects in MM and increase sensitivity to bortezomib and calls for further exploration into a potential application of these n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the therapy of MM.

Keywords: Apoptosis; DHA; EPA; Mitochondria; Multiple myeloma; NFκB; Oxidative stress.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Arachidonic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Boronic Acids / pharmacology
  • Bortezomib
  • Caspase 3 / genetics
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Multiple Myeloma / metabolism
  • Multiple Myeloma / pathology*
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Pyrazines / pharmacology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Boronic Acids
  • NF-kappa B
  • Pyrazines
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Bortezomib
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3