Lipid droplets induced by secreted phospholipase A 2 and unsaturated fatty acids protect breast cancer cells from nutrient and lipotoxic stress

Eva Jarc, Ana Kump, Petra Malavašič, Thomas O. Eichmann, Robert Zimmermann, Toni Petan
  • Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, March 2018, Elsevier
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2017.12.006

Fat reservoirs within cancer cells help them strive in times of stress

What is it about?

Cancer cells are incredibly resilient to various stresses in their environment and this is critical for tumour growth and metastasis. We show here that highly aggressive breast cancer cells take up fats from their environment and store them in special storage organelles called lipid droplets. We found that lipid droplets have two major roles in breast cancer cells: they protect cells from fat overload, which is toxic to most cells, and they provide fat for energy production in times of need.

Why is it important?

Our findings add to a growing number of studies showing that fats are used by cancer cells to overcome nutrient and oxygen imbalances. Moreover, cancer cells store fat by themselves in special "reservoirs" (lipid droplets), thereby promoting their independence of other food sources and enabling survival during prolonged periods of nutrient deprivation. Our study is particularly important because it highlights lipid droplets as crucial organelles that empower cancer cells with the ability to use and strive on various sources and types of fat.


Toni Petan
Jozef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Studying the mechanisms that control the storage and release of fat from this reservoirs within cancer cells may reveal their weak spot and hopefully provide new ways of fighting against some of the most aggressive types of cancer.

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The following have contributed to this page: Toni Petan