Another good reason to take fish oil…

Hah, you didn’t think I had set the Polyhooligans aside just yet, did you?  😉  Well, as we know from my previous post, EZH2 is hyperactive (=overexpressed) in many types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancers and, of course!, myeloma. I have therefore been looking for PubMed studies on non-toxic substances that can perhaps help us restrain the antics of this particularly mischievous Polycomb repressor gene.

A September 2009 study (see: confirms that the Aberrant expression of EZH2 has been associated with metastasis and poor prognosis in cancer patients. It then adds that, in spite of EZH2’s involvement in oncogenesis and therapy failure, not much is known about chemotherapeutics and chemopreventive agents that can suppress its expression and activity. Here, we show that dietary omega-3 […] polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can regulate the expression of EZH2 in breast cancer cells.

Oh wait, duuuh, I just quoted from the publicly-available abstract…my apologies! But I did so because it makes an important point: in spite of the evidence pointing to EZH2 as a prime target in cancer treatment, very little is known about its potential inhibitors…Well, we have seen that curcumin is one such inhibitor…and today’s study shows that dietary omega-3 PUFAs (=polyunsaturated fatty acids) are also able to block EZH2.

The full study (that I received from a very kind blog reader–thank you!) begins with a description of the Polycomb group proteins (PcGs) and the Polycomb repressive complexes (PRCs), which are formed when PcGs stick to one another…okay, skip skip skip…this stuff is giving me a headache…I need to forge ahead and select only the important bits…

Here is one: Chemopreventive agents such as dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are known to influence the development and progression of breast cancer and other cancers. Omega-3 PUFAs lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, whereas omega-6 PUFAs are associated with a higher risk. However, the study informs us that even though the molecular targets of PUFAs are not very well understood, one of these targets happens to be EZH2…Well, that is cause for celebration, I’d say!

The researchers examined DHA and EPA, two of the best-known omega-3 PUFAs, as well as LA and AA, which are omega-6 PUFAs*. EZH2 became less active when breast cancer cells were treated with DHA and EPA, whereas it was not affected at all by AA and LA. The study describes a series of experiments, but the language used is very technical, so yes, I think I will go directly to the Discussion part…

Here we learn (…but are undoubtedly not surprised!) that omega-3 PUFAs have been the object of many cancer studies. Out of curiosity, I went to PubMed and found hundreds of studies, including this pancreatic cancer one: Apparently, omega-3s can mediate cancer development and progression through multiple mechanisms. For example, they have an impact on NF-kappaB. Good news for us, obviously.

Skipping on…Recent genetic studies suggest that PUFAs are involved in the regulation of a broad spectrum of genes involved in diverse biological functions such as nutrition, cell division, proliferation, apoptosis and metastasis. Omega-3s can inhibit angiogenesis (=another process that helps keep MM cells alive and healthy) and COX2 (yep, this one, too, is another big friend of myeloma cells). Well, the list goes on and on. Let’s leave it and get back to our point…

The point is that DHA and EPA, two omega-3 PUFAs,, can decrease the activity of (=down-regulate) EZH2, one of the blasted Polycomb repressor genes that is involved in the proliferation of myeloma cells.

In the researchers’ own words, our studies suggest that anti-oncogenic effect of omega-3 PUFAs, at least in part is mediated by the PcG targets of PUFAs such as EZH2. And, they add, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that links the regulation of expression of PcG proteins, in particular EZH2, to chemopreventive agents such as dietary fatty acids. Let’s hope that it is not the last!

Even though I have to admit that I didn’t understand a good part of this study (e.g., the bits about EZH2 posttranslational regulation and EZH2 ubiquitination and subsequent degradation by proteosome-dependent pathways…Aaagh!!!), this much is crystal clear: we should, indeed we MUST include omega-3 PUFAs in our diet. I take 2 grams of molecularly-distilled fish oil every day and, after reading this study, have found another excellent reason for sticking to my protocol…

*More information on the difference between omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs: and (there is a ton of information out there on omega-3s and omega-6s…a quick search is all you need to do…).


  1. This is indeed music to my ears. I am not as organized as you are, Margaret, but somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind I remember reading that one of the two (DHA EPA) is preferable to the other for those who are cancer patients, but I alsways see the full complement of bothbin supplements so I have ignored that information and just take the fish oil. Of course, my whole supplement routine is based on channeling to my MM patient – and there is no logic in thinking I can make him better by taking the supplements he declines – so I guess it is all a moot point, I”ll take a low dose of curcumin for Alzheimers prevention and wash it down with fish oil.

  2. I was blown away by all this PUFA and such… I will take fish oils and hope that some of your MM readers may be able to include them as well..

  3. Margaret
    well I’m glad to have you back, after your summer
    vacation.Your updates always pick me up when I
    start to lose faith

  4. Hi Margaret
    I have really enjoyed reading your website, every day I check what new you have picked from ISI/web of science and other resources. In January 2010 I was diagnosed having SMM, with del 13. I have to tell you that curcumin (8g/day) did not do anything to my M-peak or IgGs, BUT it did remove my back pain (and tailbone pain) and I can, after many years, sleep on my back without getting totally stiff and sore. Your piece about the NASA osteoporosis study, alerted me to check wikipedia on EPA and DHA and I started to take E-EPA (hauled it from Europe where it is available OTC), and also raided the Walmart counters of DHA-450 (the best price) and finally after taking them for 45 days along with Costco 1200mg fish oil pills, my IgGs finally took a notice as did my hemoglobin that finally bounced over 13. I still take the 8g of curcumin as it seems to be a benign way of keeping back pain away, not to mention it can have other beneficial effects.
    Cheers SMAH


    hi margaret, i am trying to make heads or tails regarding the fish oil omega 3 and its affect on multiple myeloma cells. My dad is a mm patient. He was diagnosed with smoldering mm back in 2002, then went to full blown in 2004. He has been taking chemo on and off for years, now off for 3 weeks b.c receiving radiation on T5&T6 vertebrae. Should i put him on 1200 mg of the omega 3 fish? Also, he is in tremendous back pain b/c of the compression of the 2 vertebrae. Besides pain killers (the patch and lowertab) any other alternatives? I don’t understand all the medical terms, but based on your blog responses, I am interpreting that omega 3 fish oil is a good thing for those with mm? he presently takes flaxseed (omega 3) in the morning with oatmeal. What are your thoughts on this? Should he take this or not? thank you!

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