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  (Source: Futurity)
Study suggests special Vitamin E-derived drug will be most effective

Vitamin E is a vitamin used by the human body for a variety of purposes.  Composed of two groups of fused aromatic rings and a fatty tail, the vitamin commonly occurs in two varieties -- beta and gamma-Tocopherols.  Now a new study by Ohio State University suggests that vitamin E -- or synthetic analogues -- may be useful in fighting a broad spectrum of cancers.

I. Vitamin E Variants Can Fight Cancer

The new study by Ching-Shih Chen, professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at The Ohio State University and an investigator in Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, first examined Vitamin E's role in suppressing Akt, an enzyme that helps keep cancer cells alive.

Professor Chen comments, "This is the first demonstration of a unique mechanism of how vitamin E can have some benefit in terms of cancer prevention and treatment."

Akt is associated with keeping a variety of cancer cells alive.  It is common in many common cancerous cell types with PTEN gene mutations -- such as prostate cancers.  The excess Akt suppress apoptosis (cell death) granting the dangerous cells immortality.  But suppressing Akt allows the body's natural processes to trigger death of the tumor cells.

Before you rush to load up on Vitamin E pills beware -- the pills contain mostly alpha and beta-Tocopherols, forms of Vitamin E, which the study found to be less effective in suppressing Akt.  By contrast, the gamma form is generally poorly absorbed from dietary supplements and scarcer in pill formulations.
Vitamin E structure
γ Vitamin E and its derivatives are most effective in fighting cancer.
[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Researchers discovered that by tweaking the structure of the more effective gamma variant -- shortening the fatty acid side chain -- they could get an even more impressive 20-fold increase in Akt suppression.

II. Mechanism of Action Identified, OSU Patents Drug

The researchers explain that the effect occurs when Vitamin E binds to Akt and sequesters it to the fatty lipid bilayer on the cell's inner surface.  The complex then attracts PHLPP1, an anti-tumor agent that binds and inactivates Akt.  Professor Chen explains, "This is a new finding. We have been taking vitamin E for years but nobody really knew about this particular anti-cancer mechanism.  By reducing two-thirds of the chain, the molecule had a 20 times more potent anti-tumor effect, while retaining the integrity of vitamin E’s head group."

Rodents injected with the Vitamin E-like chemical saw death of prostate cancer tumors, saving their lives.  At the same time the agent showed no toxicity or other adverse effects.
AKT1 (left) and AKT2 (right) are common cancer-causing proteins, which the Vitamin E derivatives block. [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

While dietary vitamin E is crucial for other purposes, the successful tumor-killing properties of the vitamin E derivative could lead to a new non-toxic cancer therapy via either injections of the drug or ingested absorption.  Describes Professor Chen, "Our goal is to develop a safe pill at the right dose that people could take every day for cancer prevention. It takes time to optimize the formulation and the dose."

Ohio State has patented the Vitamin-E derived chemical, indicating that it hopes to commercialize it as a cancer treatment.

The work was funded by government grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a paper on the work was published in this month's issue of the peer-reviewed journal Science Signaling.

Sources: Ohio State Univ., Science Signaling

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By Fireshade on 3/26/2013 11:19:40 AM , Rating: 5
Ohio State has patented the Vitamin-E derived chemical, indicating that it hopes to commercialize it as a cancer treatment.

You'd hope such findings are spread freely for the benefit of mankind, but greed once again has to step in.

RE: Greed
By nrhpd527 on 3/26/2013 11:33:02 AM , Rating: 3
Agreed. My view is that if they made the new discovery during government-funded research, then all drugs made from said discovery are the pharmaceutical equivalent of Free / Open-Source software and should not be eligible for any patent protection whatsoever. Alternatively, if a patent is granted, OSU could be allowed to recoup their costs, but all profits must be returned to the US government to fund Medicare or something similar.

Note that I am as far from a socialist as possible, and probably more libertarian than anything. However, if we all concede that the government is not getting out of the research-funding business anytime soon, there should at least be some incentive to the taxpayers for all of the investment in said research. There would still be incentive to do good research, because the universities could still recoup their costs (maybe allow for a "finder's fee" of 2% or something small to encourage it more), but since this is hardly a capitalistic enterprise to begin with, why are we funding someone else's profit?

Thoughts from the rest of the DailyTech crowd?

RE: Greed
By PontiusP on 3/26/2013 12:42:15 PM , Rating: 3

I am a libertarian myself and completely agree. If I've paid for the IP once via taxes, then I shouldn't have to pay for it again.

RE: Greed
By Argon18 on 3/26/2013 5:09:45 PM , Rating: 2
Kind of like buying a car from GM. You pay twice. Once in the form of $Billions in taxpayer dollars taken for bailouts and then written off as bankruptcy losses. And again at the dealer when you purchase the vehicle. I don't like paying twice, so I'll never buy a GM product.

RE: Greed
By Noya on 3/27/2013 3:41:44 AM , Rating: 2
Kind of like buying a car from GM. You pay thrice. Once in the form of $Billions in taxpayer dollars taken for bailouts and then written off as bankruptcy losses. And again at the dealer when you purchase the vehicle. And then again when you sell/trade-in the vehicle and realize the depreciation is much higher than the Honda you were thinking of buying. I don't like paying thrice, so I'll never buy a GM product.


RE: Greed
By bug77 on 3/26/2013 6:04:16 PM , Rating: 2
You chose to analyze just the part where this is coming from government money. I think that sets your bias right there.

RE: Greed
By Ammohunt on 3/26/13, Rating: -1
RE: Greed
By havoti97 on 3/26/2013 12:19:31 PM , Rating: 4
Except this was discovered at an academic institution and probably through grants funded by the US government, aka taxpayers. If this was discovered by a privately run lab paid by someone out of their own pocket, I wouldn't have any issue with them patenting the finding and reaping the benefits for their risks.

RE: Greed
By ClownPuncher on 3/26/2013 12:32:55 PM , Rating: 2
How do we know they will make it unnafordable?

RE: Greed
By ClownPuncher on 3/26/2013 12:27:19 PM , Rating: 2
If Ohio State didn't patent it, someone else will.

RE: Greed
By hyvonen on 3/26/2013 4:17:02 PM , Rating: 2
No; if they published the results without filing for a patent, this would become unpatentable (through public disclosure).

RE: Greed
By Concillian on 3/26/2013 5:23:17 PM , Rating: 2
That just gives them a year of leeway. In current patent law, even with public disclosure, they have to file for patent or it can be patented by someone else 1 year later.

They HAVE to file a patent or someone else will.

RE: Greed
By maugrimtr on 3/27/2013 9:41:53 AM , Rating: 2
That's the downside of the new rules. Filing for a patent is now obligatory or someone else will step in, file a patent, and possibly sue you for your own creation. That's how ridiculous Patent Law has become.

RE: Greed
By name99 on 3/26/2013 4:32:30 PM , Rating: 1
More to the point, Ching-Shih Chen is now in the position of talking up his book, not acting as a dispassionate researcher.

There is a long history of people claiming the world for their drugs, claims that have little basis in reality; and the likelihood that people will conveniently ignore distractions from the story they want to present rises when money is involved.

I'd file this under "ignore as bullshit until there's five years worth of collaborating data from people who aren't trying to make money from it".

RE: Greed
By ElFenix on 3/26/2013 4:34:07 PM , Rating: 2
a public research institution needs money to fund its continuing research and teaching of students, and the government is funding less and less of that. the university of texas gets less than 15% of its budget from the state legislature. most of the rest comes from research funding. ohio state is likely similar. so while it'd be nice for ohio state to give this away, most of the revenue will be spent serving the public.

RE: Greed
By Reclaimer77 on 3/26/2013 5:11:53 PM , Rating: 3
Man you people just do not get it. This research was done in the hopes that it would lead to a commercially viable product. And it has, and now mankind will benefit.

Do you know how expensive medical research is? If there was no chance of a return on that investment, guess what? It wouldn't get done! Is that what you would rather have?

Don't come in here with your childish "greed" argument. Did you write Ohio State a check to help their research on this? No, then shut the hell up. You have a job don't you? Well why are you so greedy then? You should work for free, for the benefit of "mankind" right?

Most of the medical research done, world wide, is financed by corporations. FACT! That's right, "greedy" people are mostly responsible for the medical advances we have today. Mankind HAS benefited greatly. Just because everything isn't free doesn't take away from that.

RE: Greed
By EricMartello on 3/28/2013 6:24:50 PM , Rating: 2
The basic point here is that capitalism is great and is a net benefit to all people, despite the liberal rhetoric that attempts to associate anyone seeking to profit from their efforts as being evil.

On the contrary, socialism is only responsible for the guaranteed demise of civilizations and the devolution of the human species since it only seeks to take and never make.

RE: Greed
By Concillian on 3/26/2013 5:15:42 PM , Rating: 2
The recent change to "first to file" patent law guarantees this.

No matter whether your intentions are greedy or noble, you NEED to file or someone else will.

RE: Greed
By redbone75 on 3/26/2013 9:02:10 PM , Rating: 2
Especially since the work was funded by government grants.

RE: Greed
By chµck on 3/26/2013 11:39:40 PM , Rating: 3
I'm currently a biomedical grad student working on a diabetes type 1 treatment.
I expect to be able to earn money off of my work since, you know, I kinda need money to continue doing research. It ain't cheap.

inb4 buttmad bleeding-heart liberals berate me for not doing everything out of the goodness of my heart.

RE: Greed
By Motoman on 3/27/2013 1:22:00 AM , Rating: 2
You could say that about damn near anything.

People have a right to make a living. It's how it works. Unless you want the world to be one big hippie commune.

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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