Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chemical prevents cancer in the lab

While researching new ways to stop the progression of cancer, researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have discovered a compound that has shown to prevent cancer in the laboratory.

The compound, which still faces several rounds of clinical trials, successfully prevented normal cells from turning into cancer cells and inhibited the ability of tumours to grow and form blood vessels. If successful tests continue, researchers eventually hope to create a daily pill that would be taken as a cancer preventive.

“This compound was effective against the 12 types of cancers that it was tested on,” said Doris Benbrook, Ph.D., principle investigator and researcher at the OU Cancer Institute. “Even more promising for health care is that it prevents the transformation of normal cells into cancer cells and is therefore now being developed by the National Cancer Institute as a cancer prevention drug.”

The concept behind the translational research is that certain patterns of molecular alterations can transform normal cells into cancer cells. Interfering with a subset of these alterations can prevent cancer or induce a natural form of cell death called apoptosis. Interfering with the development of blood vessels within tumours (angiogenesis) can prevent and treat cancer.

The synthetic compound, SHetA2, a Flex-Het drug, directly targets abnormalities in cancer cell components without damaging normal cells. The disruption causes cancer cells to die and keeps tumours from forming.

Flex-Hets or flexible heteroarotinoids are synthetic compounds that can change certain parts of a cell and affect its growth. Among the diseases and conditions being studied for treatment with Flex-Hets are polycystic kidney disease, kidney cancer and ovarian cancer.

Dr Benbrook and her research team have patented the Flex-Het discovery and hope to start clinical trials for the compound within 5 years. If the compound is found to be safe, it would be developed into a pill to be taken daily like a multi-vitamin to prevent cancer.

The compound could also potentially be used as maintenance therapy to prevent cancer from returning after traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatments, especially in cancers that are caught in later stages such as ovarian cancer where life expectancy can be as short as 6 months after treatment.


University of Oklahoma
Benbrook Laboratory

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