Studies report fish oil effective
with chemotherapy drug
New studies in press with the British Journal of Cancer suggest that, in mice at least, consumption of a diet enhanced with fish oil helped a chemotherapy drug to work more effectively against cancer cells, and also reduced intestinal damage caused by the drug.
The researchers, Drs. W. Elaine Hardman, Mary Pat Moyer and
Ivan Cameron of the Health Science Center, noted
significantly increased tumor regression in mice receiving
fish oil-enhanced diets. The findings are so promising, Dr.
Hardman said, that the researchers have proposed a clinical trial in humans to the National Cancer Institute. The chemotherapy drug in the study was CPT-11 (irinotecan).
Dr. Hardman, research assistant professor in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, and Dr. Cameron, professor of cellular and structural biology, compared groups of mice on normal diets and fish oil-added diets. The fish oil-supplemented group of mice received a low dose of specially processed omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), equivalent to a human consumption of 10 to 12 grams of fish oil per day.
"While the chemotherapy stopped growth of the implanted breast cancers in mice eating a normal diet, in those mice eating a fish oil-added diet the tumors were significantly reduced and the intestinal damage caused by CPT-11 was ameliorated," Dr. Hardman said. "We therefore know that the chemotherapy worked better with the fish oil diet. We've also tried this with two other chemotherapy drugs, doxorubicin and edelfosine, and have shown that the fish oil diet enhanced the efficacy of those drugs. We are studying several hypotheses to explain these effects."
Salmon, striped bass, swordfish and tuna are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and scientists previously have shown that these fatty acids slow or prevent tumor growth. The new study is one of the first to show the impact of fish oil on the effectiveness of cancer chemotherapy, however.
Walnuts, soybeans, canola oil and flaxseed are other
less-concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Dr. Hardman emphasized that the tumor regression findings were based on use of specially processed and formulated omega-3 fatty acids, and cannot be extrapolated to consumption of currently available fish oil products.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. cancer patients receive cancer chemotherapy each year. Although it results in cancer remission in many cases, side effects such as intestinal problems cause therapy to be stopped in other patients.
Omega-3 fatty acids may make it easier for chemotherapy drugs to damage a cancer cell's membrane. "Studies suggest that the more of the omega-3 fatty acids that cancer cells incorporate, the more sensitive they become to damage by certain chemotherapeutic drugs," Dr. Hardman said. "Left unchecked, this damage can initiate a chain reaction that ultimately kills the cancer cell."
The research is funded by the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and a small business technology transfer grant from the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with INCELL Corp.
INCELL is a San Antonio biotechnology company headed by Dr.
Moyer, CEO of INCELL and part-time professor at the
Health Science Center. The fish oil formulation used
in the study will soon be marketed by INCELL as a
nutritional supplement only, pending clinical studies
to validate its use in humans. The product will be called
Dr. Jiang awarded research grant in aging
Dr. Jean Jiang, biochemistry, was recently awarded a $40,000 American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) grant for her project "Estrogen and Intercellular Communication in Bone Osteocytes."
The 1999 AFAR Grant for Biomedical Research in Gerontology and Geriatrics provided Dr. Jiang with one year of support to continue her studies on osteoporosis, a condition of aging that results in a loss of bone and subsequent vertebral and hip fractures.
Dr. Jiang's research centers around understanding the precise molecular mechanism by which estrogens control bone remodeling and how estrogen is involved in osteoporosis. This research could lead to a better understanding of osteoporosis and could provide the necessary clues leading to the discovery of drugs for treatment.
"Dr. Jiang is studying an extremely important area, namely, what happens to bones as we age," said Dr. Arlan Richardson, director of the Health Science Center's Aging Research and Education Center. "Osteoporosis is a very serious disease that affects millions of the elderly, especially women. Dr. Jiang will be studying a novel area of bone biology, the role of cell communications, and how alterations in communication may lead to disease."
Dr. Jiang is a graduate of the State University of New York, with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and cell biology. Formerly an instructor in the cell biology department at Harvard Medical School, she joined the Health Science Center's Department of Biochemistry in 1997. Dr. Jiang is a recipient of the National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health and the San Antonio Area Foundation Award, among other honors.
The AFAR grant program was started in 1982 to fund research projects dealing with the basic mechanisms of aging, the nature of age-related impairments and the role of aging processes in the development of disease. The organization awards up to 30 grants a year to fund investigators such as Dr. Jiang in the early stages of their research careers.
Tex-MUG meeting set for Aug. 4
The next meeting of the Health Science Center Macintosh Computer Users Group, Tex-MUG, is Wednesday, Aug. 4, at 11:45 a.m. in Lecture Hall 3.102B (near the Briscoe Library).
Dr. Terry Mikiten, associate dean of the graduate school, will present the second in a series of three sessions on the FileMaker Pro database program. Wednesday's session is designed for the intermediate-level user and will build upon the first presentation, in which members created a "pencils" database and several different layouts.
FileMaker Pro is a cross-platform program, so this
presentation is applicable to both Macintosh and Windows
environments. Tex-MUG meetings are open to all interested
Pruitt recently installed as president
of American Surgical Association
Dr. Basil A. Pruitt Jr., clinical professor of surgery, is the new president of the American Surgical Association (ASA). He was installed during the association's 119th Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.
"The presidency of the American Surgical Association is the highest honor one can achieve in American surgery," said Dr. John L. Cameron, ASA secretary, in a letter announcing Dr. Pruitt's appointment. The ASA, established in 1878, is the oldest surgical association in the
For many years Dr. Pruitt was commander and director of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (ISR), which operates the world-renowned Army Burn Center in San Antonio. Military personnel and others worldwide are transferred to the center for specialized and innovative burn treatment.
"This is an unexpected honor that recognizes the
fruitful collaboration existing between the ISR and the
Health Science Center," Dr. Pruitt said. "I share
this honor enthusiastically with the people of both
Lawson is new financial aid director
Robert T. Lawson Jr. is one of the newest additions to the Health Science Center family, recently taking the role of director of student financial aid.
Lawson is the former assistant director of student financial aid services for Texas A&M University, where he managed a 50-person staff and awarded aid to more than 27,000 customers. The Stephen F. Austin State University graduate also served as director and assistant controller of that institution's financial aid office.
Lawson joined the Health Science Center on July 1. He and his staff in the Office of Student Services will be working with about 2,400 students each year on financial aid.
"I think I have the opportunity to help make things work better and help students with their financial aid issues," Lawson said. "I have great staff members who are genuinely interested in providing good customer services."
An active member of the community, Lawson participates in Habitat for Humanity as a builder and a member of the organization's Public Relations Committee. He is a mentor for at-risk youth and was an ambassador for the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce.
Lawson said his move to the Health Science Center has been a positive experience. He encourages students to call or send e-mail if they have questions regarding financial aid issues. He can be reached at ext. 2640 or through e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Gordon awarded volunteer honor
Dr. Donald Gordon, emergency medical technology, won the Stroke Volunteer Award for 1999 from the Texas Affiliate of the American Heart Association at the organization's annual awards banquet July 16. "I am very proud of this honor and honored to serve this organization," said Dr. Gordon.
Dr. Gordon is president-elect of the San Antonio Committee of the AHA and a member of the Texas Affiliate's Science and Medicine Committee.
The Texas Affiliate of the American Heart Association is the second largest of 15 affiliates in the country. It supports many educational programs at the Health Science Center, including CPR Day.