The role of eicoapentaenoic acid in cancer cahexia

  • Sarah A. Price

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Cachexia is a wasting syndrome often associated with malignancy, characterised by alterations in host metabolism and significant catabolism of host adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. The MAC16 murine adenocarcinoma is profoundly cachexigenic, inducing host weight-loss at relatively small tumour burden without the induction of anorexia.
A 4DkDa factor capable of inducing lipolysis in vitro via an activation of adenylate cyclase (AC) has been isolated from the MAC16 tumour, and the urine of cachectic cancer patients, using a series of ion exchange and gel exclusion chromatography procedures. This lipid-mobilising factor (LMF) has been demonstrated to stimulate lipolysis in adipocytes dose-dependently via a signal transduction pathway involving, possibly, β3-adrenoceptors.
Oral administration of the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) attenuated the progression of cachexia, but not the production of LMF, in MAC16 tumour-bearing mice, and was significantly incorporated into plasma phospholipids, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. EPA supplemented cancer patients also demonstrated significantly increased plasma EPA concentrations. Decreased plasma membrane AC activity in response to LMF was observed in adipocytes isolated from mice receiving EPA.
Incubation in vitro of adipocytes, or plasma membranes, with PUFAs significantly altered membrane fatty acid composition and attenuated the induction of both lipolysis, and AC activity, by LMF. The inhibitory actions of EPA, but not docosahexaenoic acid, are probably the consequence of an interaction with guanine nucleotide binding proteins (G-proteins). Progression of the cachectic state induced an up-regulation of adipocyte membrane expression of stimulatory G-proteins, allied with a concomitant down-regulation of inhibitory G-proteins, thus facilitating the catabolic actions of LMF, implying some tumour-mediated effect. A reversal of such alterations was observed upon oral administration of EPA, suggesting that the primary mechanism of action of this fatty acid is
an inhibition of the end organ effects of LMF.

Date of AwardSept 1997
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael J Tisdale (Supervisor)


  • polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • lipid-mobilising factor
  • lipolysis
  • adenylate cyclase
  • guanine nucleotide binding proteins

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