Polyunsaturated fatty acids in tumour-induced cachexia

  • Elizabeth A. Hudson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A transplantable murine colon adenocarcinoma (MAC16) was utilised as a model of human cancer cachexia. This tumour has been found to produce extensive weight loss, characterised by depletion of host body protein and lipid stores at a small tumour burden. This weight loss has been found to be associated with production by the tumour of a lipolytic factor, activity of which was inhibited in vitro by the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA has also been shown to possess anti-tumour and anti-cachectic activity in vivo, leading to the hypothesis that fatty acids mobilised by the lipolytic factor supply a growth requirement of the MAC16 tumour.
In this study mobilisation and sequestration of fatty acids by the tumour was found to be non-specific, although a relationship between weight loss and arachidonic acid (AA) concentration was found in both tumour-bearing mice, and human cancer patients.
The anti-tumour effect of EPA, which was found to be associated with an increase in cell loss, but not its anti-cachectic activity, was reversed by the administration of the PUFAs oleic acid (OA) and linoleic acid (LA). LA was also found to be capable of stimulating tumour growth. Inhibition of either the cyclooxygenase or lipoxygenase pathways was found to result in reduction of tumour growth, leading to the implication of one of the metabolites of LA or AA in tumour growth and cachexia.
The ethyl ester of EPA was found to be inactive against the growth and cachexia of the MAC16 tumour, due to its retarded uptake compared with the free acid. The anti-proliferative agent 5-fluorouracil was found to cause tumour growth inhibition, and when given in combination with EPA, reduced the phase of tumour regrowth observed after 4 to 5 days of treatment with EPA.
Date of AwardSept 1993
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael J Tisdale (Supervisor)


  • cancer cachexia
  • tumour growth
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • eicosapentaenoic acid
  • MAC16 adenocarcinoma

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