Why does a Vitamin A derivative kill cancer cells?
Scientists beginning to uncover the answers
August 19, 1997
Web posted at: 6:08 p.m. EDT (2208 GMT)
From Correspondent Dan Rutz
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Scientists said Tuesday they are making progress in understanding how a promising new treatment using an artificial derivative of Vitamin A kills cancer cells without causing ill side effects.
Researchers treated laboratory cultures of cancerous and normal cervical cells with the Vitamin A derivative, a substance known as retinoid 4HPR. The cancerous cells quickly died by a process scientists refer to as "controlled cell death" or "apoptosis."
The retinoid had no harmful effect on the normal cervical cells, and the effects of 4HPR were found to be directly related to the dosage and duration of exposure.
Ongoing animal studies in Italy have already shown the Vitamin A derivative kills cancer cells and inhibits tumor growth. The Texas study -- conducted at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, part of the University of Texas -- explores why and how the retinoids work.
Human studies in Italy and the United States are also under way, testing whether 4HPR can prevent cancers in people at the highest risk for developing the disease. Those studies are not finished, so it is too early to know whether or not this form of "chemoprevention" will prove effective.
A summary of the University of Texas research appears in this week's issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.