Caprylic (Octanoic) Acid as a Potential Fatty Acid Chemotherapeutic for Glioblastoma

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2020 Aug:159:102142. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2020.102142. Epub 2020 May 30.


High grade glial tumors (HGGs) including anaplastic astrocytoma (WHO Grade-III) and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM, WHO Grade-IV) are among the most malignant cancers known to man. Due to their defective mitochondria, HGG cells consume glucose via glycolysis even in the presence of oxygen. Overall survival is worse in HGG patients that are hyperglycemic. Unlike normal neural cells, HGG cells cannot efficiently metabolize ketone bodies for energy. Thus, a metabolic treatment based on therapeutic ketosis (reduced glucose with elevated ketone bodies) was proposed to treat GBM and was supoported from preclinical studies. Caprylic (octanoic) acid, a monocarboxylated saturated fatty acid, is among the best producers of ketone bodies and induces necrosis of experimental tumors at high dose. Caprylic acid is enriched in coconut and in goat's milk. It is also a posttranslational modifier of the ghrelin hormone and is produced in trace amounts in human tissues. Caprylic acid is a straight-chain isomer of the antiepileptic valproic acid, which is used in treatment of HGG-associated seizures and which may increase survival in GBM patients according to epidemiological observations. Among the valproic acids analogs tested, caprylic acid is the most potent molecule to block C6 astrocytoma cell growth in vitro and accumulates selectively within glial cells as shown by Positron Emission Tomography in vivo. Caprylic acid blocks glycolysis both in healthy liver and in malignant liver cells, which is more prominent in the latter and also lowers blood glucose. Noteworthy, caprylic acid exerts neuroprotective- and mitochondria-protective effects in several models of neurodegenerative diseases. Boost injections of caprylic acid at non-toxic levels during classical ketogenic metabolic therapy may fortify antitumor actions and reduce systemic toxicity by differential programming of mitochondrial and other metabolic pathways.

Keywords: Caprylate; Caprylic; Glial tumor; Glioblastoma; Octanoate; Octanoic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Brain Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Caprylates* / pharmacokinetics
  • Caprylates* / therapeutic use
  • Glioblastoma* / drug therapy
  • Glioblastoma* / metabolism
  • Glioblastoma* / pathology
  • Humans


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Caprylates
  • octanoic acid