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Open Access Research

Omega 3 fatty acids increase the chemo-sensitivity of B-CLL-derived cell lines EHEB and MEC-2 and of B-PLL-derived cell line JVM-2 to anti-cancer drugs doxorubicin, vincristine and fludarabine

Johannes F Fahrmann and W Elaine Hardman*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Marshall University School of Medicine, Huntington, WV, USA

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2013, 12:36  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-12-36

Published: 16 March 2013

Abstract

Background

B-Cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common form of leukemia in the United States. Clinical treatment of CLL is often limited due to drug resistance and severe therapy-induced toxicities. We hypothesized that the omega 3 (n-3) fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and/or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), would increase the sensitivity of malignant B-lymphocytes to anti-cancer drugs doxorubicin, vincristine and/or fludarabine in vitro and that increased sensitivity is achieved by alterations in cell-cycle progression leading to growth inhibition and/or enhanced cell death. We further postulate that enhanced sensitivity is dependent on the formation of lipid peroxides and to the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Methods

In the present study, B-CLL-derived leukemic cell lines EHEB and MEC-2 and the B-Prolymphocytic leukemic-derived (PLL) cell line JVM-2 were tested for in vitro sensitivity against doxorubicin, vincristine or fludarabine in the presence or absence of vehicle, arachidonic acid (omega 6), EPA or DHA. Cell cycle analysis and Annexin-V assays were performed to determine cell cycle progression and % apoptotic cells, respectively. Assays for malondialdehyde, a measure of lipid peroxidation, and DCF fluorescence assays, a measure of intracellular ROS, were performed to determine if enhanced sensitivity of cells to the drugs by n-3 was dependent on the formation of ROS.

Results

Our results indicated that: 1) EPA and DHA differentially sensitized B-leukemic cell lines EHEB, JVM-2 and MEC-2 to doxorubicin, vincristine and fludarabine in vitro; 2) n-3 alone and with drug treatment increased cell death and induced G2/M arrest in a cell-type specific manner; 3) lipid peroxidation increased in the presence of n-3; 4) there was higher lipid peroxidation in MEC-2 cells in presence of DHA and doxorubicin than with either alone; 5) n-3 increased generation of ROS in MEC-2, and 6) the addition of vitamin-E abrogated the increase in ROS generation and chemo-sensitivity of MEC-2 to doxorubicin by DHA.

Conclusion

N-3’s are promising chemo-sensitizing agents for the treatment of CLL. Selective enhancement of chemo-sensitivity of EHEB, JVM-2 and MEC-2 to drugs by n-3 that is not dependent on increased lipid peroxidation and ROS generation indicates alternative mechanisms by which n-3 enhances chemo-sensitivity.

Keywords:
Omega 3; Chemo-sensitization; Chronic lymphocytic leukemia