Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Molecular, Cellular, and Systemic Physiology

First Advisor

Hales, Dale


Ovarian cancer is a deadly gynecological disease that ranks fifth in all cancer-related deaths inwomen. The disease is often detected at an advanced stage and lack of sensitive predictive biomarkerscontribute to its poor prognosis, which is also responsible for the current five-year survival rate of only47%. Our laboratory has previously shown that a whole flaxseed supplemented diet decreases the onsetand severity of ovarian cancer in the laying hen, the only known animal model of spontaneous ovariancancer. Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (OM3FA), mostly α-Linoleic acid (ALA), which getsconverted to Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) by the action of delta-6 desaturase enzyme. We have also shownthat the flaxseed diet in hens induces CYP1A1 expression in the liver while suppressing both CYP1B1 andCYP3A4 expressions. The upregulation of CYP1A1 parallels the increase in 2-hydroxyestradiol and the 2-methoxyestradiol (2MeOE2) level in the serum of the chickens. Flaxseed diet induces apoptosis to ovariantumors and not in the normal ovarian tissues. The current work explores the pro-apoptotic actions of oneof the biologically derived compounds of flaxseed diet, 2MeOE2, and describes one of its novel molecularactions. Our results indicate that 2MeOE2 -mediated pro-apoptotic actions are partly dependent on thecatalytic activation of protein kinase C delta (PKCd), which is responsible for key apoptotic histonemodifications and p38 MAPK (MAPK14) phosphorylation. Phosphorylated MAPK14, in turn, results inmore caspase-3 cleavage which activates more PKCd, therefore amplifying the apoptotic signal.The other part of this work explains one of the key anti-cancer actions of a flaxseed diet. Flaxseedreduces the number of endothelial cells and increases pericytes to endothelial cell ratio in ovarian tumorscompared to control diet-fed birds, indicating a reduction in tumor angiogenesis and an improvement inblood vessel maturation. Flaxseed decreases a-smooth muscle actin expression in ovarian tumors, whichmarks a decrease in cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) in the tumor stroma. Flaxseed also reduces fibrosisin ovarian tumors. Flax -mediated reduction of ovarian fibrosis parallels an increased infiltration ofimmune cells in the preneoplastic ovaries and ovarian tumors. Therefore, this work describes how the flaxdiet differentially targets the ovarian tumor cells and the tumor stroma in preventing the incidence andseverity of ovarian cancer. Dietary supplementation with flaxseed can, therefore, be a healthy lifestylechoice as well as a potential adjuvant therapy for immunotherapy-based treatment modalities.




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