The goal of one study on how to prevent cancer is to develop a safe pill at the right dose that people could take every day for cancer prevention. Researchers at last have identified an elusive anti-cancer property of vitamin E that has long been presumed to exist, but difficult to find. So, it's not a drug, but vitamin E, all parts of it not just one part that shows the vitamin's anti-cancer property that for years scientists had been trying to pinpoint. The study appears in the March 19, 2013, issue of the journal Science Signaling.
In the local Sacramento and Davis area, researchers study vitamin E and cancer. Check out the article, "Extra vitamin E linked to prostate cancer, but diet still merits study." Taking a vitamin E supplement appears to increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer, according to a study that appears in the Oct. 12 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. But in another study, results show how vitamin E does have some benefit in terms of other types of cancer prevention.
Many animal studies have suggested that vitamin E could prevent cancer, but human clinical trials following up on those findings have not shown the same benefits. In this new work, researchers showed in prostate cancer cells that one form of vitamin E inhibits the activation of an enzyme that is essential for cancer cell survival. The loss of the enzyme, called Akt, led to tumor cell death. The vitamin had no negative effect on normal cells.
“This is the first demonstration of a unique mechanism of how vitamin E can have some benefit in terms of cancer prevention and treatment,” said lead author Ching-Shih Chen, in the March 14, 2013 news release, "Study shows how vitamin E can help prevent cancer." Dr. Chen is a professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at The Ohio State University and an investigator in Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Taking a typical vitamin E supplement won't offer this benefit for several reasons
Chen cautioned that taking a typical vitamin E supplement won’t offer this benefit for at least two reasons: The most affordable supplements are synthetic and based predominantly on a form of the vitamin that did not fight cancer as effectively in this study, and the human body can’t absorb the high doses that appear to be required to achieve the anti-cancer effect.
“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,” he said in the news release. But consumers question why a drug is needed, when other research suggests taking all eight parts of vitamin E may have some health benefits. So, the university now has filed a patent for the 'agent,' but consumers still want to know why can't they buy a natural form of vitamin E with all its parts instead of having to take a prescription drug instead of a vitamin?
When drugs are made from vitamins and sold at a specific price, it benefits big pharma rather than the vitamin manufacturers because there's more control as one reason. And there are many other reasons why a drug usually is promoted with the public or with doctors rather than a vitamin. Can it be because you can't make money with a vitamin that's natural in all of its eight parts rather than one measly synthetic part found in the cheap commercial vitamin types?
Or are there more scientific reasons not linked to making money with drugs, since drugs are what helps fund grants? Those are questions the average consumer wants to know -- what to eat to prevent cancer rather than what prescription drug for which to shell out dollars.
Chen has filed an invention disclosure with the university, and Ohio State has filed a patent application for the agent.
Vitamin E occurs in numerous forms based on their chemical structure, and the most commonly known form belongs to a variety called tocopherols. In this study, researchers showed that, of the tocopherols tested, the gamma form of tocopherol was the most potent anti-cancer form of the vitamin. So why can't the average person buy a container of natural vitamin E with all its tocopherols? Or can they?
The scientists manipulated the structure of that vitamin E molecule and found that the effectiveness of this new agent they created was 20-fold higher than the vitamin itself in cells. In experiments in mice, this agent reduced the size of prostate cancer tumors. So now consumers need to buy the new 'agent' that's 20 fold higher than the vitamin. But which forms of the vitamin, ask the consumers? And will the agent eventually become available in a health food store in the future? Or will it remain by prescription only at cost what compared to what's available in health food stores or online today? The point is who's controlling what goes into the vitamin?
Types of cancer the agent can prevent--based on the structure of one form of vitamin E
These findings suggest that an agent based on the chemical structure of one form of vitamin E could help prevent and treat numerous types of cancer – particularly those associated with a mutation in the PTEN gene, a fairly common cancer-related genetic defect that keeps Akt active.
Most consumers would like to know which form of vitamin E is most helpful in the particular application of preventing a specific type of cancer. After all, vitamin E has eight parts. There's also the study, "New Type of Study Ties Pollutants, Vitamin E Variant to Diabetes." In that other study, a unique analysis of 266 potential environmental contributors to type 2 diabetes has confirmed a link between several pollutants and the disease, while also pointing researchers for the first time toward a form of vitamin E as a possible risk factor.
The researchers began the work with both alpha and gamma forms of the vitamin E molecule
Both forms inhibited the enzyme called Akt in very targeted ways, but the gamma structure emerged as the more powerful form of the vitamin. So why can't consumers buy a bottle of toctrienols to take with their natural, whole form vitamin E with all its parts intact? Or if it exists, why isn't it promoted to the general consumer?
In effect, the vitamin halted Akt activation by attracting Akt and another protein, called PHLPP1, to the same region of a cell where the vitamin was absorbed: the fat-rich cell membrane. PHLPP1, a tumor suppressor, then launched a chemical reaction that inactivated Akt, rendering it unable to keep cancer cells alive.
The gamma form of vitamin E was most effective in this study
“This is a new finding. We have been taking vitamin E for years but nobody really knew about this particular anti-cancer mechanism,” Chen said in the news release. The gamma form was most effective because its chemical shape allowed it to attach to Akt in the most precise way to shut off the enzyme.
The only issue consumers have to ask about is to explain another study in which the gamma form raised the risk of diabetes. There are numerous controversial study findings regarding vitamin E. Which one can the general consumer get a handle on in his or her mind? See, Recent Research on Vitamins C and E and Are You Taking the Wrong Vitamin E? - Smart Publications
Because of how the various molecules interacted on the cell membrane, the scientists predicted that shortening a string of chemical groups dangling from the main body, or head group, of the gamma-tocopherol molecule would make those relationships even stronger. They lopped off about 60 percent of this side chain and tested the effects of the new agent in the prostate cancer cells.
The manipulation of the vitamin enhanced the anti-tumor potency of the molecule
“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,” Chen said. This manipulation enhanced the anti-tumor potency of the molecule by changing its interaction with the cell membrane, so that the head group was more accessible to Akt and PHLPP1.
When mice with tumors created by these two prostate cancer cell lines were injected with the agent, the treatment suppressed tumor growth when compared to a placebo, which had no effect on tumor size. Chemical analysis of the treated tumors showed that the Akt enzyme signal was suppressed, confirming the effects were the same in animals as they had been in cell cultures.
The animal study also suggested the experimental agent was not toxic
Chen’s lab is continuing to work on improvements to the molecule. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health. Co-authors include Po-Hsien Huang, Hsiao-Ching Chuang, Chih-Chien Chou, Huiling Wang, Su-Lin Lee, Hsiao-Ching Yang, Hao-Chieh Chiu, Naval Kapuriya, Dasheng Wang and Samuel Kulp of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at Ohio State.
Huang and Chen also are affiliated with National Cheng-Kung University, Yang with Fu-Jen Catholic University, and Chiu with National Taiwan University, all in Taiwan; and Kapuriya with Saurashtra University in Gujarat, India. Check out the study or its abstract in the March 19, 2013, issue of the journal Science Signaling.