The fatty acid (FA) composition of red blood cell (RBC) membrane phospholipids of cancer patients can reflect tumor status, dietary intakes, and cancer type or therapy. However, the characteristic membrane profiles have so far not yet defined as a potential biomarker to monitor disease evolution. The present work provides the first evidence of cancer metabolic signatures affecting cell membranes that are independent of nutritional habits. From the Oncology Outpatient Unit of the Onkologikoa hospital, two groups of cancer patients (n
= 54) and healthy controls (n
= 37) were recruited, and mature RBCs membrane phospholipids were analyzed for FA profiling (GC-MS). Dietary habits were evaluated using a validated food frequency questionnaire. The adjusted Analysis of Covariance Test (ANCOVA) model revealed cancer patients to have a lower relative percentage of saturated fatty acids (SFA) (C16:0 (5.7%); C18:0 (15.9%)), and higher monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) (9c-C18:1 (12.9%) and 11c-C18:1 (54.5%)), compared to controls. In line with this, we observe that the desaturase enzymatic index (delta-9 desaturase (Δ9D), +28.3%) and the membrane saturation index (SI = SFA/MUFA; −27.3%) were similarly modulated. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) families showed an increase of n
-6 C18:2 and C20:3 (15.7% and 22.2% respectively), with no differences in n
-6 C20:4 and n
-3 PUFA (docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)). Importantly, these changes were found independent of foods and fat intakes from the diet. The membrane lipid profile in RBC was useful to ascertain the presence of two main metabolic signatures of increased desaturation activity and omega-6 in cancer patients, statistically independent from dietary habits.
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