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The Fatty Acids Present in the Palm Oil has been Linked to the Stimulation of Cancer Spread

Scientists have discovered how a fatty acid in palm oil might promote cancer spread, paving the way for novel treatments. According to Prof Salvador Aznar-Benitah, of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), Barcelona, palmitic acid-enhanced metastases in mouth and skin malignancies in mice. This mechanism could be targeted with medications or carefully planned eating programmes in the future, but the researchers advised against patients going on diets without clinical studies. Because specific nutrients are disproportionately consumed by tumour cells or necessary at critical stages such as metastasis, the findings add to accumulating evidence that food can boost conventional cancer treatments.

The research expanded on prior work by the same group, which found that only a small subset of cells within a tumour can spread by travelling outside of the tumour, colonising other organs. These specialised cancer cells appeared to rely primarily on fatty acids, and recent research has narrowed this down to palmitic acid, which can be found in palm oil, as well as butter and olive oil. As per the study published in Nature, adding palmitic acid to mice's diet made mouth and skin cancers more likely to develop. Other omega-9 and omega-6 fats found in olive oil and flaxseeds, such as oleic acid and linoleic acid, did not have the same effect. To begin with, none of the fatty acids studied was found to enhance cancer risk.

Because specific nutrients are disproportionately required by tumour cells or at critical periods such as metastasis, the findings add to accumulating evidence that food can be utilised to boost conventional cancer treatments. The same team's research expanded on prior work that showed that only a small subset of cells within a tumour could propagate by travelling outside of the tumour, colonising other organs. These specialised cancer cells appeared to be particularly reliant on fatty acids, and recent research has narrowed this down to palmitic acid, which can be found in palm oil, as well as butter and olive oil.

The findings mentions that the palmitic acid exposure altered the function of genes in cancer cells, allowing them to detect and ingest fatty acids more efficiently. Palmitic acid also appeared to induce a regenerative state in cancer cells, allowing them to build signalling networks outside of the tumour, which is a critical step in the spread of cancer. Cancer metastasis is still the leading cause of death in cancer patients, and the vast majority of those who have metastatic cancer can only be treated, not cured. The scientists discovered ways to prevent the process by figuring out what cancer cells require to make this leap. They are planning a clinical trial with proteins that interfere with the tumour response to palmitic acid.

This rigorous and comprehensive study indicates that long-term exposure to a critical component of palm oil affects cancer cell behaviour, making them more likely to progress from localised to potentially lethal metastatic disease. This study underlines the need for more outstanding research into how dietary choices increase the risk of cancer development, given the ubiquitous usage of palm oil in processed foods. This revelation is a tremendous leap in our understanding of how diet and cancer are linked, and, perhaps more crucially, how they might use this knowledge to launch new cancer cures, said Helen Rippon, CEO of Worldwide Cancer Research. Metastasis is thought to be responsible for 90 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide, or around 9 million fatalities per year.

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