The dietary supplement GLA -- gamma-linoleic acid – has been found to be effective in blocking the growth of pancreatic cancer cells, a new Mayo Clinic study has found.
The supplement, a fatty acid, was particularly effective when combined with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine, the researchers reported at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Richmond this week.
"This was very exciting finding, because we realized that GLA was working selectively and had a particular target within [cancer] cells," said lead researcher Ruth Lupu. "We don't yet know why the combination works better, but we know that many drugs work better when used together."
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult to treat because few drugs have been able to stop tumor growth.
For the new study, Lupu's team first tested GLA against a variety of pancreatic cancer cell lines in mice, and found that it was effective against a particular type. Researchers found GLA halted about 85 percent of the cancer cell growth, while gemcitabine alone, the standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, had a modest effect. When researchers combined the two, the tumor growth was blocked completely.
Lupu cautions that patients or healthy individuals should not rush to take GLA or alter their chemotherapy without consulting an oncologist. Her next stage of research will be to to test the GLA-gemcitabine combination in human patients and other chemotherapy drugs used to treat pancreatic cancer.