Vitamin E Can Fight Cancer, But Dietary Vitamin E Doesn't Do the Trick
March 26, 2013 8:50 AM
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Study suggests special Vitamin E-derived drug will be most effective
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
, professor of
medicinal chemistry and pharmacognos
y at The Ohio State University and an investigator in
Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center
, first examined Vitamin E's role in suppressing
, an enzyme that helps keep cancer cells alive.
, "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
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 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
, 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
in this month's issue of the peer-reviewed journal
Ohio State Univ.
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3/26/2013 12:25:11 PM
Coming from the natural supplement field, I would wonder if the body may naturally metabolize forms of vitamin E into the 'specific' variant that they are using with success, and if so, if there is another cofactor that may tell standard forms of vitamin e to convert to the desired form that has been shown successful in these test.
Also, this seems more like it would be used to slow the SPREAD of cancer, and not the initial occurrence of it as that is an entirely different pathway. . .
RE: Naturally occurring?
3/27/2013 3:13:05 AM
Well of course it's to prevent the spread of it. Heck, we have cancer cells developing in us all the time, only problem is when the body can't handle it right. But most people don't say "Oh hey look, I've had this mole for the last 20 years, see? That means I have cancer!" because people only say they have cancer when it becomes a problem... which a mole typically is not :P So yeah, it obviously won't prevent the initial formation of a cancer cell, but it will prevent "cancer" in the sense of having developed a sickness. It's all about the connotative meaning amongst a majority of the population of the word being used to describe a sickness, as opposed to its definition amongst cellular biology scientists =P
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