Professor Ron Pardini, Ph.D., and University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine student Irvin Ma on the front lines in the fight against cancer

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Irvin Ma and Ron Pardini, Ph.D.

UNR Med student Irvin Ma and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Professor Ron Pardini, Ph.D., with a World Cancer Day #WeCanICan poster determined to find a cure for cancer.  

World Cancer Day is a global event intended to unite the world's population in the fight against cancer. It is a day about having conversations, spreading awareness and taking action.

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Professor Ron Pardini, Ph.D., has spent the better part of his career taking action in the fight against cancer. Since the 1980s, Pardini has researched nutritional intervention for treating various cancers, specifically focusing on omega-3 fatty acids.

In the 1990s, then graduate student Yu Shao conducted pioneering work in Pardini's lab, completing his dissertation research on the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on cancer responsiveness to chemotherapy. His work established that feeding immune deficient, or athymic, mice diets rich in long-chained omega-3 fatty acids—docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—resulted in a decreased rate of growth, increased responsiveness to Mitomycin C chemotherapy and decreased toxicity of chemotherapy in the host mice. These findings where then corroborated with other chemotherapeutic agents, including doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, Taxotere and enzalutamide is currently being investigated.   

Their studies revealed that every tumor line they enriched with N3 (omega-3) fatty acids showed a lower rate of growth compared to corn oil-fed controls that contained high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. The cancer cells tested included several human mammary carcinoma lines (breast cancer), three prostate carcinoma lines, two colon carcinoma cell lines and a single human lung carcinoma cell line. They found that DHA was the primary tumor-suppressing fatty acid and that there were many biomedical targets, including inducing lipid peroxidation, enhancing anticancer activating enzymes, lowering the synthesis of inflammatory-inducing cytokines, reconfiguring tumor metabolism and altering epigenetic control of DNA synthesis and tumor proliferation.

Current University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine student Irvin Ma first joined Pardini's lab as a University undergraduate. He conducted his senior thesis research on the impact of DHA on a breast cancer cell line and contributed to a study on the effects of N3 and heat shock proteins (Hsps) in inhibiting cancer growth.

As a UNR Med student, Ma has successfully submitted an abstract to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) on the response of hormone refractory prostate cancer to enzalutamide when enriched with omega-3 fatty acids. Pardini and Ma will present their findings at the AACR Annual Meeting in April. Additionally, Ma is participating on a proposed clinical trial based on this work at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System

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The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.