July 24, 2024

Fatty Acid in Beef and Dairy Shown to Enhance Immune Response to Cancer

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago has discovered that trans-vaccenic acid (TVA), a type of fatty acid found in beef and dairy products, can potentially enhance the cancer-killing abilities of the immune system’s T cells. This nutrient has also been found to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy, suggesting that it could be used as a nutritional supplement to complement cancer treatments.

The relationship between diet and its impact on human health is an area of extensive research. However, due to the complexity of diet metabolism and the wide variety of foods consumed, it has been challenging to understand how specific nutrients affect physiological and pathological processes.

To address this challenge, the researchers assembled a blood nutrient compound library and screened its contents to identify nutrients that influence cancer development and response to treatment. Their library contained 255 bioactive nutrient-derived molecules, which they tested for their ability to activate the anti-tumor activities of CD8+ T cells, a crucial component of the immune system. From their analysis, trans-vaccenic acid emerged as the most effective nutrient in enhancing anti-tumor immunity by activating an important immune pathway.

Trans-vaccenic acid is a naturally occurring trans fatty acid primarily found in the fat of grazing animals such as cows and sheep, as well as in dairy products like milk and butter. The body cannot produce this acid on its own. The researchers found that feeding mice a diet enriched with trans-vaccenic acid significantly decreased the growth potential of melanoma and colon cancer cells compared to mice on a control diet. Additionally, the trans-vaccenic acid diet increased the population of CD8+ T cells within tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, which are immune cells that recognize and kill cancer cells. This dietary intervention also improved the function and survival of CD8+ T cells.

Further molecular and genetic analyses revealed that trans-vaccenic acid inactivated a surface receptor called GPR43 on immune cells. This receptor is typically activated by short-chain fatty acids produced by the gut microbiota. By overpowering these short-chain fatty acids, trans-vaccenic acid activated the CREB pathway, a cellular signaling pathway involved in cell growth, survival, and differentiation. The researchers found that the tumor-fighting ability of CD8+ T cells was compromised when the GPR43 receptor was removed from these cells.

In addition to the animal models, the researchers also analyzed blood samples from patients undergoing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell immunotherapy for lymphoma. They observed that patients with higher levels of trans-vaccenic acid tended to have better responses to treatment compared to those with lower levels. The researchers also tested leukemia cell lines and found that trans-vaccenic acid enhanced the effectiveness of blinatumomab, an immunotherapy drug that activates T cells to kill leukemia cells.

This study suggests that trans-vaccenic acid could be used as a dietary supplement to improve the effectiveness of T cell-based cancer treatments. However, the researchers caution against consuming excessive amounts of red meat and dairy to boost trans-vaccenic acid levels, as this could have negative effects on overall health.

The findings of this study underscore the significance of metabolomics, the study of products resulting from cell metabolism, in understanding how dietary components influence health. With only a limited number of metabolites derived from food circulating in the bloodstream, identifying the importance and targeted mechanisms of specific nutrients like trans-vaccenic acid can lead to profound physiological responses at the organism level.


1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it