Could a genetically modified flax oil help treat breast cancer?
The health benefits of flax consumption, such as the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, have been known for some time. A recent collaborative research article between the Universities of Alberta and Saskatchewan, extends the potential of these benefits even further, finding that genetically modified (GM) flax oil has the ability to reduce breast cancer tumors.
Flax produces oil that has health benefits for humans. It is known that flax oil contributes to increasing the level of omega-3’s that an individual would receive in a normal diet. Eating food products that are high in omega-3’s has been found to assist in the prevention of heart disease. Flax oil is made up of numerous acids and chemical compounds, but it is what is known as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, that is of importance for breast cancer tumors. Previous research has demonstrated that this type of acid in flax oil has the ability to reduce the growth of human breast tumors. Researchers at the Universities of Alberta and Saskatchewan have genetically modified flax to enhance the production of these beneficial acids while taking care to not increase the content of other acids that could have the ability to counteract the beneficial effect.
In this study, mice were fed a diet containing GM flax. Control mice were fed a diet that did not include GM flax. Upon analysis of the tumors, the researchers discovered that breast tumor growth had been suppressed by 85% and 81% when fed a diet including GM flax, when compared to tumors from the mice in the control group.
So, what does this mean for human health? The anti-cancer effects from GM flax are clearly documented when applied to mice in a controlled laboratory setting. (Mice are used as the standard model for humans in all drug and therapeutic proof of concept research studies.) As knowledge about flax oil and its variety of health effects becomes better understood, it is hoped that GM flax can be commercially grown and potentially become part of breast cancer treatment programs. Thus, GM flax could provide less invasive treatment options for women with, or prone to, breast cancer.
Sadly, the critics of biotechnology and GM crops have been so effective at spreading messages of lies and untruths, that future research involving GM flax with anti-cancer benefits is having great difficulty receiving additional funding. Evidently, these critics would prefer that women be forced into accepting that mastectomies, radiation and chemotherapy be the only available forms of treating breast cancer tumors. It is a tragedy that these environmental critics are working to deny female cancer patients a safe, benign and effective means of treating breast cancer.
The article is available at:
Subedi, K., Yu, HM., Newell, M. et al. Stearidonic acid-enriched flax oil reduces the growth of human breast cancer in vitro and in vivo. Breast Cancer Res Treat 149, 17–29 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-014-3212-3