Researchers Make Vitamin E Offshoot A Potent Cancer Killer

May 19, 2006

Researchers here have learned how a derivative of vitamin E causes the death of cancer cells. The researchers then used that knowledge to make the agent an even more potent cancer killer.

The compound, called vitamin E succinate, or alpha tocopheryl succinate, is taken by some people as a nutritional supplement, mainly for its antioxidant properties. In addition, it has a weak ability to kill cancer cells, and it has been tested as a cancer chemopreventive agent.

The substance kills cancer cells by causing them to undergo a natural process known as programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Until now, no one knew how the agent caused this to happen.

These findings answer that question and also indicate that the molecule's antitumor activity is separate from its antioxidant effect.

The study, led by researchers with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James), is published in the April 28 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“Our findings could lead to a potent chemopreventive agent that has both strong anticancer and antioxidant properties,” says principal investigator Ching-Shih Chen, professor of pharmacy and of internal medicine and a researcher with the OSUCCC-James.

“Such an agent might help reduce the risk of prostate, colon and other cancers.”

Chen and his collaborators found that vitamin E succinate works by blocking a protein called Bcl-xL. The protein, which is made by healthy cells, is often present at abnormally high levels in cancer cells and protects them from dying when they should.

Using computer modeling, the researchers found that the vitamin E derivative works because it lodges in a groove in the structure of the Bcl-xL protein, disabling it.

However, the vitamin E molecule has a long, coiled, protruding tail that keeps the molecule from fitting tightly, and more effectively, into the groove.

“Once we identified how the agent and the protein interact, we asked how we could improve that interaction,” Chen says.

The scientists found that a relatively simple process of altering the molecule's structure – basically cutting the tail short – allowed a tighter fit and improved the agent's ability to kill cancer cells by five- to ten-fold in laboratory tests.

“Overall, out findings are proof of the principle that this drug can kill cancer cells very effectively but does very little damage to healthy cells,” Chen says.

Source: Ohio State University

Explore further: Retinoic acid may improve immune response against melanoma

Related Stories

Retinoic acid may improve immune response against melanoma

August 16, 2018
Immunotherapies use the immune system to fight cancer. But cancers like melanoma have found ways to turn off the immune system, allowing them to resist treatments and often leading to recurrence. Now University of Colorado ...

Chemicals found in vegetables prevent colon cancer in mice

August 14, 2018
Chemicals produced by vegetables such as kale, cabbage and broccoli could help to maintain a healthy gut and prevent colon cancer, a new study from the Francis Crick Institute shows.

Getting enough vitamin D? You need far less sun than you might think

August 6, 2018
The summer weather has surprised us and made getting your daily dose of vitamin D that much easier. But the sunny weather always prompts questions about how to enjoy it safely.

What your body may be telling you about your health

July 25, 2018
Do you have a persistent cough, or do you feel like your hair is thinning? These issues may signal that you need to visit a doctor. Baylor College of Medicine expert Isabel Valdez, a physician assistant and instructor of ...

It's called kombucha. But is it good for you?

July 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Fizzy, fermented kombucha tea is the hot new health drink.

Large international study links blood vitamin D levels to colorectal cancer risk

June 14, 2018
A new study authored by scientists from the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and more than 20 other medical centers and organizations finds that higher ...

Recommended for you

Perinatal hypoxia associated with long-term cerebellar learning deficits and Purkinje cell misfiring

August 18, 2018
Oxygen deprivation associated with preterm birth leaves telltale signs on the brains of newborns in the form of alterations to cerebellar white matter at the cellular and the physiological levels. Now, an experimental model ...

Students more likely to eat school breakfast when given extra time, new study finds

August 18, 2018
Primary school students are more likely to eat a nutritional breakfast when given 10 extra minutes to do so, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Tech and Georgia Southern University.

CRISPR technology targets mood-boosting receptors in brain

August 17, 2018
An estimated 13 percent of Americans take antidepressant drugs for depression, anxiety, chronic pain or sleep problems. For the 14 million Americans who have clinical depression, roughly one third don't find relief with antidepressants.

People are more honest when using a foreign tongue, research finds

August 17, 2018
New UChicago-led research suggests that someone who speaks in a foreign language is probably more credible than the average native speaker.

As body mass index increases, blood pressure may as well

August 17, 2018
Body mass index is positively associated with blood pressure, according to the ongoing study of 1.7 million Chinese men and women being conducted by researchers at the Yale Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE) ...

Critical role of DHA on foetal brain development revealed

August 17, 2018
Duke-NUS researchers have found evidence that a natural form of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) made by the liver called Lyso-Phosphatidyl-Choline (LPC-DHA), is critical for normal foetal and infant brain development, and that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.