The effects of Ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and Ω-6 PUFAs on the development of experimentally induced colon carcinoma metastasis in rat liver were investigated quantitatively in vivo. Rats were kept on either a low-fat diet or on a fish oil (Ω-3 PUFAs) or safflower oil (Ω-6 PUFAs) diet for 3 weeks before the administration of colon cancer cells to the portal vein, until they were sacrificed at 1 or 3 weeks after tumor transplantation. At 1 week after transplantation, the fish oil diet had induced 7-fold more metastases (in terms of number and size) than had the low-fat diet, whereas the safflower oil diet had not affected the number and total volume of metastases. At 3 weeks after tumor transplantation, the fish oil diet and the safflower oil diet had induced, respectively, 10- and 4-fold more metastases (number) and over 1000- and 500-fold more metastases (size) than were found in the livers of rats on the low-fat diet. These differences were sex independent. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that the immune system in the liver (Kupffer cells, pit cells, T cells, newly recruited macrophages, and the activation state of macrophages) did not play a significant role in this diet-dependent outgrowth of tumors. In conclusion, Ω-3 and Ω-6 PUFAs promote colon cancer metastasis in the liver without down-regulating the immune system. This finding has serious implications for the treatment of cancer patients with fish oil diet to fight cachexia.


This study was performed in the Department of Cell Biology and Histology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam as part of the postdoctoral research project of P. G. on a bursary of the Netherlands Orgnaization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (NUFFIC) bursary.

This content is only available via PDF.