Dietary vitamin E derivative may be effective for preventing or treating breast cancer


Cancer Center researchers have identified a chemically altered form of vitamin E that demonstrates anticancer properties in mice. Emmanuel T. Akporiaye, Ph.D., and Tobias Hahn, Ph.D., from the Department of Immunobiology, and their colleagues from the Department of Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, and BIO5 Institute for Collaborative Bioresearch, created a fat-soluble vitamin E derivative and incorporated it into the diet of mice with mammary cancer.


Mice eating the vitamin E-enriched “chow” showed reduction of tumor volume. An even greater effect was seen when the chow was eaten as a cancer preventive. This is the first study to demonstrate the ability of this synthetic compound to prevent and treat tumors when given as a dietary supplement.


Although previously known to suppress tumor growth, derivatives of vitamin E have not been used in clinical practice because they are not water soluble. The addition of sodium hydroxide makes the synthetic vitamin soluble in water. In this state, the vitamin derivative, called TEA, can be delivered by injection into the peritoneal cavity, administered through a feeding tube, or ingested directly in the diet.


Our researchers experimented with each of these delivery methods in mice with metastatic breast cancer. Each method decreased tumor volume, but TEA incorporated into the diet was the most effective method.


“The combined characteristics of ease of delivery, relevance of route of delivery and selectivity for killing tumor cells suggest that dietary TEA may be useful for treating metastatic breast cancer,” says Dr. Akporiaye.


TEA was incorporated into the mouse diet as therapy and as preventive treatment. Tumor volume was decreased by 3.6-fold in the therapy group and 6.7-fold in the preventive group compared to the control mice, and there was a 4.8-fold reduction in the number of tumors that spread to the lungs.


“These preliminary results are very promising,” says Dr. Akporiaye. “It could be that combining the synthetic vitamin E derivative with other anticancer treatments may offer the potential of both treating and preventing human breast cancer, but further studies are needed before this can be recommended for humans.”


Results of this study are published in the Oct. 1, 2006, issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.