Newly Discovered Essential Fatty Acid Has Anti-Cancer Activities

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Multiple research teams, including Seraphina Therapeutics, have found that an essential nutrient called C15:0 has therapeutic properties that may help to fight cancer.

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A growing body of science supports that pentadecanoic acid, also called C15:0, is an essential fatty acid that our bodies require to maintain physiological health. While numerous studies have linked C15:0 to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease, early research shows that C15:0 may have the potential to fight cancer.

As published in PLOS ONE, C15:0 effectively decreased proliferation of cells in systems modeling cancer and tumor development. Moreover, clinically-relevant activities of C15:0 at the highest dose closely matched those of two common anti-cancer therapeutics, gemcitabine and paclitaxel. Gemcitabine, which can be paired with paclitaxel, is currently used as a broad chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, CEO and Co-Founder of Seraphina Therapeutics and lead author of this study shared, “These results, while early, are exciting. C15:0 continues to demonstrate broad benefits to support our long-term health, now including the potential to stem certain types of cancer.” Venn-Watson continued, “We are especially encouraged by C15:0 anti-cancer findings being reported by multiple independent research teams.”

Consistent with these findings by Venn-Watson, a study by a second team showed that C15:0 stopped growth of breast cancer cells. As published in Nutrients, C15:0 suppressed cancer cell migration and decreased the invasiveness of these cells. Most recently, a third team combined gemcitabine with C15:0 and demonstrated that this combination stopped proliferation of nine different cancer cell lines. In their models, gemcitabine combined with C15:0 had more effective antitumor activities than gemcitabine alone, while maintaining a strong safety profile.

The effectiveness of C15:0 may be due to its demonstrated role as an inhibitor of histone deacetylase 6, which has been proposed as a means to treat certain types of cancer.

Given consistent results across multiple studies, C15:0 has been proposed as a nutrient to support people undergoing cancer treatments. More research is needed, however, to fully understand C15:0’s potential role alongside cancer treatments.

C15:0 is a trace nutrient present in whole fat dairy products, as well as some types of fish and plants. As an odd-chain saturated fatty acid, the emerging health benefits of C15:0 directly challenge the long-held belief that people should avoid all types of saturated fats. During 2020, Venn-Watson published a l andmark paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports that demonstrated how C15:0 was meeting the criteria of being the first essential fatty acid to be discovered since omega-3 and omega-6, which was over 90 years ago.

To date, over 50 peer-reviewed studies from prestigious research teams, including Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and Kaiser Permanente, have linked higher C15:0 in humans to better metabolic, heart, liver, and immune health. Some studies have shown that people with higher circulating C15:0 live longer. Due to its role as an essential fatty acid, a leading hypothesis is that nutritional C15:0 deficiencies may be driving the global pandemics of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver disease, especially among younger people.

“There is a need to revisit dietary guidelines to differentiate between good and bad saturated fats,” said Venn-Watson, “The latest findings of C15:0’s potential role in stemming certain types of cancer makes this need that much more urgent.”


About Seraphina: Seraphina Therapeutics, Inc. is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics. Through rigorous breakthrough science, the company develops pure and essential nutrients to support cellular health and counter age-related breakdown. With its team of industry-leading scientists, Seraphina Therapeutics challenges long-held approaches to nutrition, enabling the creation of novel health products designed to support quality of life. The company is a spinout of Epitracker, Inc., headquartered in San Diego. For more information, please visit and

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