Therapeutic potential of omega fatty acids in breast cancer. Review




Unsaturated fatty acids, hormonal treatment, fish oils, anti-inflammatory agents.


Background: Breast cancer is the second cause of death in women in developed and undeveloped countries, including Colombia. A high percentage of these tumors is estrogen dependent, for which the hormonal treatment is the most used therapy in breast cancer. Currently, the first line treatment for breast tumor in postmenopausal women is the letrozole, an aromatase enzyme inhibitor that avoids the transformation of androgens to estrogens. Since letrozole produced adverse effects on patients, there is a requirement for new alternative treatments. Furthermore, omega fatty acids (ω-FA), essential as they are obtained from the normal diet or from dietary supplements, have demonstrated nutraceutical potential because of their anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory activity. Nonetheless, there is controversy in in vitro, in vivo and epidemiologic reports regarding their preventive or inducing activities of carcinogenesis in animals and humans, depending on the structure of the ω-FA. Objectives: This review aims to show the main in vitro, in vivo and epidemiologic evidences of the chemotherapeutic potential of ω-3 and ω-6 FA in different types of neoplasm, particularly in breast cancer, in individual or combined treatments with diverse antineoplastics. Methods: PubMed and Science Direct databases revealed the most representative studies, published during the last two decades, about ω-3 and ω-6 FA, breast cancer and the principal therapeutic strategies for this neoplasm. Findings were presented in separated topics to provide an overview of ω-FA and their potential in treatments for breast cancer. Results: Patients treated with estrogens and progesterone derivate have shown predisposition to develop breast cancer after two years of continued therapy. Furthermore, ω-FA with known nutraceutical potential have demonstrated their potential as adjuvants in the treatment against different neoplasms, like hepatic and colon cancer. Conclusions: Current therapies for breast cancer and their low efficacy in the long term led to explore new alternative treatments with ω-FA. These essential fatty acids in daily consumption could enhance the antineoplastic agent effect. Nevertheless, metabolism of the ω-FA must be considered for this use.

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Author Biographies

María E. MÁRQUEZ-FERNÁNDEZ, Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Associate Professor, Biociencia School. Science Faculty. Animal biotechnology group

Mauricio CAMARGO, Universidad de Antioquia

Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences. Genetics, Regeneration and Cancer Group


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How to Cite

MÁRQUEZ-FERNÁNDEZ, M. E., & CAMARGO, M. (2019). Therapeutic potential of omega fatty acids in breast cancer. Review. Vitae, 26(1), 84–93.



Pharmacology and Toxicology